Coronavirus, stock market plunge, economic collapse, politicians being politicians in an election year, cancelation of all sports, rodeo shutdown, restaurants and gathering spots shuttered, instant unemployment, even our beloved homes of faith are primarily streaming online instead of worshipping in our preferred communal settings surrounded by friends, our brothers and sisters in faith. Just reading the above list can bring anxiety and raise your blood pressure. That little almond-shaped collection of neurons called the amygdala sending out hormones and impulses that makes your heart race, feelings of fear which trigger fight or flight impulses as a way to prepare for danger. Fear causes us human beings to do strange things. Just try to find a roll of toilet paper in the supermarkets. But as people of faith we are repeatedly given a different message: lean into your faith, not fear.
On top of the fear issues, I am keenly aware as we practice social distancing and other forms of isolation we tend to fall into bad habits. Even the most introverted of us was not made to be alone. God just didn’t build us that way. I remind us, however, that we are to have a different filter to process all that is going on around us. The Apostle Paul writes: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2, NRSV). So make sure you reach out to friends and family. Find inspirational forms of entertainment. Practice spiritual disciplines like prayer and the reading of scripture. Lean on faith, not fear.
I love what Jesus tells, “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid” (John 14:27, NLT). Do you get it? We have received a gift! Who doesn’t like to receive a gift? But a gift can only truly be appreciated if we open and use it for its intended purpose. With Christ’s gift we make decisions with information of the day, not based on hoarding, stockpiling and a fear-mongering mentality.
Growing up, I knew a very sweet older lady who spoke with a funny accent and was the first woman I ever saw with a tattoo on her arm. I later learned that she was a Holocaust survivor and her accent was Yiddish and her tattoo was her identification mark from the camp she was in. When I knew her, it had been more than 20 years since her release but there were fears and actions that continued to dictate her behavior in certain areas of her life all those years later. One was the hoarding of toilet paper (sound familiar?) and the other was hoarding staples like coffee, sugar and flour. Those items were stuffed in closets, under beds, behind furniture throughout her beautiful home. Financially, she was very well off, but she could not get past her scarcity mindset.
One intended purpose of Christ’s gift is to help give us mindset not of scarcity but sufficiency. As we lean on our faith, instead of fear, Christ’s gift truly becomes a gift of peace in the face of trials, strength in the face of trials, hope in the face of disease, disaster and dystopic media headlines. His is the promise of abundant life.
So be smart. Listen to the health professionals. Wash your hands, use hand sanitizer with more than 60% alcohol. Avoid groups of more than 10. God gave you a brain so use it, but in all matters of life remember to lean on your faith and do not give into fear.