A couple days after the COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, I dropped my wife at work and went to the grocery store to pick up a few items. It was around 9 am, just an hour after the store opened. I thought by going early I would avoid the line ups (I’m sure everyone did), but as I entered the store I saw multiple lineups snaked through the isles and around the entire store! Shopping carts spilled over with paper towels, canned goods, and cleaning supplies. Is this actually happening right now? I thought to myself. But the hour I waited in line to cash out, confirmed the reality of the situation.
By this time I’m sure most of the world is asking these types of questions: how is the Coronavirus going to affect my life? How long will it last for ? What will the government do? But the most difficult part of asking these questions is that we simply don’t have the answers for them. In other words, we are living in a time of many uncertainties, a reality that can open the door for fear to enter our hearts.
And although the internet and media outlets help us to stay updated, they can also perpetuate feelings of panic and alarm if it’s all we consume. So what do we make of this storm that doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon?
Let’s turn Read Mark 4:35-41
35 That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” 36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
41 They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”
In the story, Jesus and his disciples were also caught in a storm (an actual storm) with violent gusts and turbulent waves. Most of us, if not all, would have had the same reaction as Jesus’ followers. All they saw in the moment was the waves, the wind, and the boat being swamped. Though they knew that Jesus was in the boat with them (sleeping on cushion), they must have forgotten that Jesus was not only greater, but much more powerful than the storm. And they asked, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
Similarly, all we see right now is the numbers of cases go up, government officials declaring a state of emergency, public places closing etc. Consuming this over and over can create a spirit of fear within our hearts. And I get it; we all feel fear. No one is immune to it. But there is a difference between feeling the emotion of fear and living in the spirit of fear. Living in the spirit of fear is when we allow fear to cloud our thinking, our decisions, and our faith in God. The difference is in the way we respond, whether we fix our eyes on the storm or on Him who is greater than the storm. God is in control, and when we understand that, we find peace. But the spirit of fear on the other hand, is not from God.
“For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” – 2 Timothy 1:7
In Mark 4:40, Jesus asked his disciples: “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” This question can be asked of us too. Why are you so afraid? Where is your faith? Have you forgotten the God is greater than this storm and even allowing it to happen?
What is God trying to teach me through this storm? Who does God want me to be during this time?
God uses times like these to test, refine, and even expose our faith. Yes, we should be concerned and do our best to protect ourselves and others from the virus, but let’s be careful not to give in to the spirit of fear. By God’s grace we have control over how we choose to respond to fear. Let’s choose to fix our eyes on Jesus, the one who with a simple command calmed the storm. The text says that His followers were terrified at this, left in awe, not at the storm, but at Jesus. Nothing is too difficult for Him. Let us also be in awe of God, the almighty, the one who is greater than the storm.
Some important things to remember:
- God is in the boat with us. God is with us! God will provide. God cares for us. The storm will soon pass, but God will remain, so let’s also remain in Him. (John 15:5)
- He gives us a spirit of power. Through God we have the ability and strength to live out His will in whatever season we face, whether good, bad, or ugly. We lack nothing with Him. (2 Peter 1:3)
- He gives us the spirit of love. Let us not be overly concerned with ourselves, but let’s also think of others during this time. Who can I encourage? Who can I pray with/for? Is there anyone I can help ? (Romans 13:8)
- He gives us a spirit of self-discipline. In the scriptures self-discipline can be defined as “sensible behaviour that fits a situation.” Let’s exercise good judgment by fixing our hearts and minds on things above, the things of Christ, so we can make decisions out of faith and not fear. (Philippians 4:8-9, Colossians 3:1-2)