Containing the Fear Virus

Mountain Road Motion Sickness shutterstock_1327770098

We are living in anxious times.

The global spread of COVID-19 (the Coronavirus Disease–2019) is affecting every area of life everywhere, generating a crisis unlike anything most have seen in our lifetimes.

Fear is in the air. And it’s more contagious than any virus. Fear is a greater virus than any virus we fear.

Let me share three thoughts that can help contain the fear virus.

First, Find Your Horizon Point.

Coping with uncertain, tumultuous times is like dealing with motion sickness. Ever wonder why the driver of a car rarely gets sick, though that same person may be overcome by nausea if riding in the back seat?

I came across a study that concluded the nausea of motion sickness comes from “slippage of the eyes.” Our equilibrium is closely associated with our optic sense. When we are moving, especially at a high rate of speed and/ or with continual twisting and turning (like the mountain road pictured above), our eyes may have difficulty adjusting. They slip from focal points, and that upsets our equilibrium. The remedy? Look to the far horizon–to that which is not moving and shifting. The driver of a car usually does not suffer motion sickness because she continually looks ahead.

I see a spiritual principle here. When our equilibrium is shaken by life, a “slippage of our spiritual sight” occurs. We fail to maintain our focus on the Lord. Fear gains a foothold, and faith fades in strength. The only hope is to lift our eyes to the far horizon of faith.

When we’re overwhelmed with the unknown, we need to cling to the known.

Psalm 91, a psalm for dangerous times, rivets our focus on the Most High God as the unwavering focal point for our lives. (It would help to read it before continuing).

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High

    will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.

I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,

    my God, in whom I trust.” (Psalm 91:1-2)

Our eyes of faith are fixed on a loving God in whom there is no darkness. While we are not immune from trouble in this fallen and failing world (see my blog “Trust Only in God,”), we are protected by the God who sent his Son to die for us and who brought him back from the grave!

Second, Diagnose the Fear Viruses That Threaten

Fear, properly understood and managed, can lead to insight, faith and freedom. That begins with naming our fears. Naming empowers us to process our fears directly instead of being controlled by them indirectly.

Psalm 91 mentions a number of fears. Commentator Derek Kidner wrote, “Most of these dangers are of a kind which strike unseen, against which the strong are as helpless as the weak.”

The psalmist refers to the schemes that others plot against us (like those trapping birds in nets), the threats of war and physical harm, the anxieties that plague our minds, and the threats of illness that attack our bodies. He even speaks of the threat of beasts, which may be literal creatures but often represent human and demonic evil.

Fears are meant to be alarms, awakening us to action. The fear response was not intended to bind us in anxious paralysis. For the psalmist, fear awakens faith:

You will tread on the lion and the cobra;

    you will trample the great lion and the serpent (Psalm 95:13).

We are not simply survivors who escape; we are victors who trample these deadly enemies underfoot.

Fear awakens faith when we use it as a mirror of our souls. Our fears reflect our inner state of being. We ask ourselves, “Fear, why are you here?”

What fears do you wrestle with? These fears are alerting us to genuine issues that need our attention.

When we feel the nausea of fear rising within, we know our vision is fixed too low. We need to look up from the jostling situation to the horizon of hope. Our horizon is the Word of God.

Fear is an alarm to awaken us, not a chain to bind us.

Third, Exercise the Choice to Trust God at All Times

Fear may initially be a reaction, but it becomes a decision.

That’s why I began with the statement that “Fear is a virus greater than any virus we fear.” Fear, left unchecked, can overwhelm our spiritual immune system and “infect” those around us.

The Bible tells us to expect the worst from the world. This is not pessimism. This is biblical realism that gives stability. Realistic expectations keep us from false security and self-reliance. In God we trust.

Hours before his crucifixion, Jesus described the trials his followers would suffer. “I have told you these things,” Jesus said, “so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

It’s as if Jesus were saying, “When problems come, you’re going to think I’ve left you. But I tell you that when problems come, it’s the sign that I’m with you. Learn to use your trials as triggers to faith.”

We are tempted to take trouble as a sign God has forsaken us, but Jesus teaches us to take trouble as a sign God has prepared us.

Fear may never leave us in this life, but it need not rob us of joy and confidence. In Jesus Christ, we become courageous people.

When fear threatens and the nausea rises, we train ourselves to look to the horizon of God’s sovereign rule and care.

Tap the energy of fear as a motive for trust in our Faithful God.

[NOTE: To hear the full sermon from which I developed this post, click on the link to my sermons at Trinity and and find “Containing the Fear Virus” on March 15, 2020]

 

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