I’ve been doing a series on what emerging from isolation (quarantine, lockdown, whatever you want to call it) is looking like for my family. As I stated in the first post, we’ve been mid-level social distancers so I’m writing from that perspective but it has been a very unique season of growth, challenges, and joy.
My last post focused a lot on preparation and how that plays out as we learn to do community again. Play date etiquette, for example, is a learned skill and it can be unlearned. My family has been readjusting to manners in other peoples homes and how to allow space for other voices and all sorts of lovely social skills.
This post, however, I am dedicating mainly to the topic of fear and how it relates to faith.
I am now considered fully vaccinated, I had my final dose of the COVID-19 vaccine about two weeks ago and I have experienced a little bit of fear about telling people that.
I am surrounded by a large group of individuals who are loudly against the COVID Vaccine and am in community with immuno-compromised people and others who are more worried about COVID itself. I’ve been feeling very caught in the middle.
Personally, I have had a level of anxiety and caution about either of them and receiving the inoculation was an act of faith. It was faith through fear. Not faith over fear as the buzz phrase dictates. Faith and fear were both present when I received my injection, but I chose to pursue what I believed was the best choice for myself and my community.
“If possible, so far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”
Romans 12:18 ESV
This is one of my favorite passages in scripture because it speaks guidance and grace in large volume. I have a peacemaker’s heart and truly love pursuing peace with people. I also can fall into the people-pleasing trap easily and this verse helps me sort that out. I can only pursue peace as far as it depends on me. I can’t chase down those who love conflict and force them to change. I can’t make everyone around me agree on everything, but I can do my part to live peacefully.
So, I chose to get vaccinated and maintain relationships with the people I love who are skeptical of the pandemic and with those I love who have been in much more extreme lockdown than myself.
I made the decision to pursue peace and to maintain relationships, because that has been one of my larger fears from this season.
I have struggled with a lot of fears over the last year. If we’re honest, I believe we all have.
There’s the big one that gets all the attention: COVID-19, but there’s dozens of other ways we have all expressed anxiety in this season.
The fear of missing out; on relationships or activities.
The fear of no longer being part of the crowd.
The fear of businesses going under.
The fear of government take over and loss of freedom.
The fear of civil war breaking out.
The fear of micro-chips and all the other conspiracy theories.
I’ve been rather frustrated with the people who go off about what every one else if afraid of without reflecting on their own. I’ll admit to you that I hit myself with most of this list. I don’t believe I have been chipped, but I do see where all of these fears come from.
Viruses are scary, especially if you have seen them bring harsh results in people you love or if you have any experience loving immuno-compromised people.
Relationships can fade and crumble with a difference of opinions and lifestyle.
A business is a livelihood and it does hurt to watch it fall.
A government is made of people and people are incredibly fallible, it’s scary to put too much trust on the shoulders of any human organization.
The trajectory of political division and unrest that we are on makes a civil war sound like a fairly reasonable outcome.
I’m not here to mock anyone for their fear, but I am encouraging you to admit you have it. To yourself and God, at least.
I am someone who can struggle with anxiety about any number of things, as outlined in this delightful meme.
I’ve struggled with a certain degree of anxiety most of my life and I’ve only recently become comfortable admitting that.
I used to view it as sinful distrust in God, so I’d hide it and stuff it down to act all together. You know, as if the God who made me can’t see through my façade.
The more I grow in my faith and relationship with God, however, the softer my views on it are.
One read through the Psalms will tell you that Our God is comfortable with emotion. He can handle your worries and doubts and fears. He is there to make a kingdom exchange of your worries for his provision, but it’s really hard to lay something down when you’re pretending that you never picked it up.
This is something I have been pondering for years as I read things about “fear being the most coddled sin in the church” of “fear being the absence of faith”
Not to even touch on all the ways we’ve dealt with depression or mental health disorders.
I’ve gone back and read all the passages where we are told not to fear, and there are a lot. The thing is that I just can’t shake my first reaction to them.
I have always read them as the reaction of a loving father, acknowledging that there are things to be afraid of in this world. Fear, anxiety, guilt, grief, sadness, etc are all products of life in a broken world and He wants us to know that we don’t need to live there because we have him. We have another kingdom, a better reality.
I’m always put off when we make too much of an emotion, whether to worship or to cower before it as an evil of its own. Emotions are fluid, natural, God-given, and sin-corrupted. We’re going to feel them, what matters is what we do with them.
When my children come to wake me at night because they had a bad dream, I go and sit with them. I ask them about their worries, I listen, and do my best to resolve. Sometimes this means searching for an octopus in the closet or monster under the bed, sometimes it means turning on a nightlight or lullaby, and it always means a prayer and a reminder that they’ve got mommy, daddy, and Jesus on their side. They’re covered, so they don’t need to be afraid.
You know what I have never said when they come to talk to me?
“Be gone you sinful child and never bring your fears before me again”
Truth be told, I may have felt that way in the depths of exhaustion but I can rally a kind response for my scared children.
If I, in all my brokenness and frailty, can do that…don’t you think God can?
Sometimes our expectations of God are so shockingly low for all the praise we sing.
He is big enough to handle your fears. I’d go so far as to say that He longs to. His desire is for relationship and that isn’t built by pretending and putting on a brave face. It’s built with the courage to admit your humanity and allow him to make something better of it.
So, maybe it’s time we stop being so afraid of our fears and time we stop shaming others for their worries. We can dump them all at the feet of Jesus, He knows what to do with them.
After all, He’s got the whole world in his hands.
“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart, I have overcome the world.
John 16:33 NIV