Categories: Apologetics & Theology

Do Not Succumb to Fear, Only Fear God

Nena Arias | June 17, 2020

There is only one fear that is necessary; the fear of God.

And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell (Matthew 10:28).

Fear of God is the only healthy fear to have. What is the purpose of fearing God? It is not for God’s benefit; he will still be God no matter what. Fearing God is for our benefit to keep from sinning (Exodus 20:20).

In regard to all human and earthly fears, if we are with God, he emphatically tells us the following:  Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)

Fear is a tool used very effectively by the enemy of our souls. Fear amplifies the threats and dangers and makes people do foolish things and take a course of action that is the wrong one. Panic is very disastrous and deadly. Panic is sudden uncontrollable fear or anxiety, often causing wildly unthinking behavior. Further description of panic is a sudden sensation of fear, which is so strong as to dominate or prevent reason and logical thinking, replacing it with overwhelming feelings of anxiety and frantic agitation consistent with a fight-or-flight reaction. This is serious and we must guard against it, especially in a crisis. If this is happening at times with no crisis, there is something else going on.

On the other hand, God’s favorite tool to use for everything he does is love because he is love. Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God… God is love (1 John 4:7-8).

One of the most famous, or well-known Bible verses that tells us of God’s love and all he has done to prove his love for us is John 3:16, For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son that whosoever believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life.

Everything God does is motivated by love. Even his judgments are set in motion—by his love he purges humanity to protect his truth, to insure the continuance of his master plan, he protects the innocent parties—the righteous, and to stop the human race from annihilating itself if he is still not finished with us. 

At this time, the entire world is experiencing very real threats to life itself and the economy of every nation. We know that times of drought, famine and pestilence have visited the human race regionally from time to time. But a global pandemic, such as we are facing at present in the entire world, we have never lived through before. 

A fact of life is that disease and death have been part of the human challenge since creation fell into disarray due to sin and how it impacted all of it. The fact is that God’s one command to Adam and Eve at creation was to not partake of one specific tree in the garden, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:16-17). But we know how that worked out as a result of that step of disobedience.

Some very logical questions arise when we consider this command. For instance, if God said that everything that he had created was good, why did he include this tree that would introduce such dire consequences if Adam and Eve would eat of it. Also, if God knew that they were going to eat, why tempt them by putting it there in the first place?

These are very logical and valid questions that we must answer and learn what it teaches us about the character of God.

Disease and death are an inescapable part of the human existence. The kinds of diseases people have to face have a lot to do with genetic makeup, family history of illness, hygiene practices and culture, among other reasons. Some diseases follow times of war and famine as well as insect plagues. It is impossible to avoid all germs and bacteria. Even though good hygiene is necessary we shouldn’t even try eliminating all germs. The fact is that we need bacteria to stay alive. Only the bacteria that cannot live in the human body are the ones that make us sick.

The first reaction that should follow a natural disaster is to repent of our sins and to call on the Lord for protection and deliverance. God protects his children just like we read about in the plagues that came upon Egypt in the deliverance of the Israelites from slavery. The plagues did not touch the Israelites (Exodus 9:6). He is still the same God and he has not changed in the way he deals with people.

Famine, drought, and pestilence are caused by God’s judgment but also by customs and cultures of people. Here we are facing a global pandemic caused by something we know little of, known as the coronavirus.  These pandemics have been part of the human race for a long time.

Some thought that during the Black Plague, it was the end of the world, because the Black Death, as it was also known, was extremely destructive.  This outbreak of bubonic plague essentially devoured Europe at a time when it was already suffering from a lengthy war and widespread economic instability, as well as a series of frightening natural disasters.  It seemed to be the climax of successive disasters and calamities. Sometimes life is like that and we must know how to deal with it properly to survive, regroup and go on until God decides time’s up.

No modern pandemic has even begun to compare to the chaos and destruction that swept through much of the world, from India to Iceland, between 1347 to 1349.  Entire families and villages were wiped out. It is estimated that possibly that at least one third of the population in that part of the world succumbed to the vile disease (a scourge made extremely more infectious for having both airborne and bloodborne variants that were spreading the disease simultaneously).  Deaths were mostly quick but nonetheless hideously painful and unsightly; The symptoms included strange black swellings about the size of an egg...they oozed blood and pus and were followed by spreading boils and black blotches on the skin from internal bleeding.  The sick suffered severe pain and depression and despair set in along with all the horrible physical symptoms. We cannot even imagine what that was and so much of it everywhere with no real solution in sight. Once loved ones were sick and nothing could be done for them, they were going to die anyway, some family members took whatever they could and abandoned them to try to save themselves since there was nothing more they could do for them.  

This was a time when even non-religious people thought the world was coming to an end. Many compared the plague to the biblical flood and thought it was caused by an angry God so great that the extermination of the human race seemed possible.  We have never seen anything that even comes close to this and thank God for that!.  We do not have streets filled with rotting corpses because all the graveyards as well as the common pits are already full. 

How did the Black Plague end? The most popular theory of how the plague ended is through the implementation of quarantines. The uninfected would typically remain in their homes and only leave when it was necessary, while those who could afford to do so would leave the more densely populated areas and live in greater isolation.

The Historic UK magazine reports: In 1666 the Great Fire of London destroyed much of the center of London, but also helped to kill off some of the black rats and fleas that carried the plague bacillus. Bubonic Plague, also known as the Black Death, has been known in England for centuries. To say it was a gruesome disease is an understatement.

But I have a question for you: are we exempt from experiencing something of the magnitude of the Black Plague?  It can seem like life is just one catastrophe after another.  We can easily develop crisis fatigue. People become angry, frustrated and plain exhausted of having to deal with so much. But we haven’t seen nothing yet and life must go on.

The sooner we learn the lessons of crises past the better off we will be to cope with what we have to go through. How did people respond to the calamities of pandemics in the past? How can we better equip ourselves?

1. The less we understand the problem, the more frightening it seems. The mystery of how people are becoming infected is the most terrifying. Those of us who interpret plagues from the biblical perspective know that it is very likely the wrath of God, but how is the physical transmission happening? Lack of accurate information and the unknown intensifies reactions to an already terrible situation. This is the cause of all that puts us in danger: Hosea 4:6 says, My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge;…

We should be glad of the scientific and technological advances of recent decades and be careful about communications that sometimes spread misinformation and fear too quickly.

2. While some people will engage in courageous acts of mercy in a crisis and will use it to become better persons, other will use it as an excuse for evil behavior.

Although there is no cure in sight or even reliable treatment at this time, certain groups and individuals do put themselves at great risk to care for the sick and the dying.  There are those who do often die for their trouble, so that mortality rates are higher than average for doctors and the clergy.  In general, however, lawlessness and debauchery accompany disasters. Rioting and looting has broken out in many cities.

It seems that many people's capacity for empathy shuts down in the face of such massive suffering. Others do nothing for fear of becoming infected.   There may be even doctors who will not tend the sick, priests and pastors who will not tend their flock’s spiritual needs. In the past, even parents deserted children, leaving them to die alone, afraid, and in pain.

3.  Some people will turn to religion for solace, but others will throng to bizarre fringe groups or reject any form of authority whatsoever. Both can be dangerous. In the past, massive penitential processions, (which probably helped spread the Plague) gained in popularity.  As the epidemic wore on, though, it accelerated discontent with the Church at the very moment when people felt a greater need of spiritual reassurance. The atrocious behavior of some clergy didn't help.  This grew the arrogance and antagonism against the Church.  This leads to violence and extreme anarchy.

4.  In times of crisis, scapegoating is a real and present danger, and it takes strong moral leadership to combat it.  Widespread hysteria in what may already be hostile cultural issues, religious, and legal environment can ignite chaos.  Then comes the accusations of who is responsible for spreading the Plague. People begin to look for targets to vent their anger, frustration and impotence.  Unnecessary loss of life can take place and not necessarily from the diseases. The time of the Plague could have been merely a tragic episode in our collective past, instead it became also one of the most shameful epochs in Christian history.

A clear historical perspective can keep us from falling into the modern-day versions of these same errors.  We must always seek the most accurate and least inflammatory information available and try hard to understand the true causes of things that distress us rather than seeking out scapegoats and victimizing them.  Understanding how fear-mongering and scapegoating work can help us be vigilant in our responses to these stressful times.

THE BEST COURSE OF ACTION IS TO CALL UPON GOD

The worst thing that can happen is to harden our hearts toward God and blame him for the consequences of our sin. Amos 4:10 says, "I sent a plague among you after the manner of Egypt; I slew your young men by the sword along with your captured horses, And I made the stench of your camp rise up in your nostrils; Yet you have not returned to Me," declares the LORD.

OUR PARTICIPATION IN SIN IS THE CULPRIT

Even if God has to visit the earth with his judgment, he protects his own when their time here on earth is not finished.

Psalm 91:3-8

For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence. 4 He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler. You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor the destruction that wastes at noonday. A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. You will only look with your eyes and see the recompense of the wicked.

God also visits with his wrath when his Word is altered

Revelation 22:18

I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book;

There’s a lot of that happening in the world. God’s Word is being twisted or disregarded. God is being misrepresented.

Living in obedience has its recompense and reward to be exempt from disasters. Exodus 12:13 says, 'The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live; and when I see the blood I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you when I strike the land…

Do not succumb to fear, only fear God.