Fearful. Afraid. Anxious. Concerned. Cautious. All these words communicate a similar emotion that sets us on edge. We have individually and collectively spent a lot more time dealing with this in the past two years than perhaps we ever had before. Almost every part of our lives had some level of trepidation connected to it. We asked, “Can we go to school, to the store, to our work place, to church, out to eat, out anywhere?” Now we wonder if being vaccinated helps us or not; if it is a good thing or not. A declaration to only have contact with vaccinated people and avoid those who have chosen not be vaccinated, even in our immediate family, has all of us dealing with some level of fear. And the reason is so that we do not have a repeat of a similar pandemic 100 years ago. It does, however, cause our fear factor to rise to new levels.
Collectively, we, the Bible Fellowship Church, are now having to accommodate this new fear factor. When is it safe to return to in-person services? Will it ever be safe, and how will we know? The use of the newly acquired technology of providing worship services digitally has been both a blessing and a curse, because those who are fearful due to health issues can still remotely plug in with their church and stay safe, but also those who are lazy or have other issues can do the same. And, it might be difficult to distinguish between the two. Both, however, miss the blessing of fellowship, the community of believers that we need to embrace. For church leaders, it is a conundrum. Some of our BFC churches have done better at overcoming the obstacle of fear, while others have not (and have lost congregants because of it).
So how should we deal with our fear? The Psalms are really helpful in this area. Psalm 23 comforts us by reminding us that Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me. Psalm 46 instructs us that God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though Covid-19 threatens our very existence (I added the last phrase – it’s not in the original!). Jesus, Himself, said to His disciples, Do not be anxious about your life … nor be worried … Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom (Luke 12). We need not live in a state of fear, being anxious about what might happen, for God has a plan and a purpose for each one of us, and it is really significant!
The Apostle Paul wrote to the Roman church that you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, Abba Father. And then he reminded them that the Spirit helps us in our weakness and intercedes for us, so that for those who love God all things work together for good (Rom. 8). So, with the Holy Spirit indwelling us, and knowing that God will work things out for His good pleasure, why fear what we cannot control? The Apostle John teaches us that because God is love … there is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18).
How should we deal with our fear? Should we stay isolated so that we think we’re safe? No, we need each other. Fear should not be the reason we stay away from others. Although there might be significant medical reasons to do so, fear should not be the reason. Instead, give yourself to our all-knowing, all-loving God who is for us, who has already given His Son to provide us eternal life, and who has given us His Spirit to live within us. Simply stated (by Jesus) “Love God, love others.” Focusing on God will cast out our fears. Focusing on others, even giving them space and accommodation when they disagree with you about their fear, will help us all arise from this era of dread and enable us to live the full life God intended for each of us.
David Allen is the Executive Director of the Bible Fellowship Church Denomination.