“The Fear of the Coronavirus Is More Dangerous Than the Virus,” was the headline of a recent newspaper. No doubt, fear can be one of the most powerful and dangerous of our emotions. Maybe we need to take another look at that powerful emotion we call fear. Of course, it’s powerful and potentially destructive. But that’s not the whole story.
Anytime you talk about the things that matter most to you, you’re talking about your heart, about your feelings or emotions. The Bible uses the word heart to refer to those God-created, built-in emotions He gave us that make life worth living. We’re grateful for those wonderful feelings like love, joy, and peace. Everybody wants them. But what about those other feelings God gave us that nobody seems to want like pain and fear? Did you know they’re gifts of God too?
The internationally-famous surgeon and pioneer in leprosy research, Dr. Paul Brand, wrote an historic book, The Gift Nobody Wants: Pain. In it he says that what people with leprosy want most is what others work hard to avoid. Why? Because lepers lose their ability to feel pain and thus hurt themselves without even knowing it. Those wounds lead to infections, amputations and even death. Dr. Brand explains that none of us may see it at first, but we all need pain to protect us from hurting ourselves and to help us become more caring.
Another gift from God that nobody wants is fear. How in the world can fear be a gift from God? After all the Bible says over 400 times, “Fear not or don’t be afraid.” During times like we’re facing with this life-threatening Coronavirus Pandemic, fear is rampant. Even if you didn’t feel fear for yourself, what kind of person wouldn’t feel fear for his or her family members and friends? I confess, anytime I face the unknown or something evil or something that would cause suffering, my gut instinctively feels tension and anxiety, sometimes a little and sometimes a lot.
For years I felt guilty for feeling afraid. And I’ve discovered many feel the same way. And it’s no wonder. With so many misinterpretations and misunderstanding of scriptures on fear, it’s easy to believe that feeling afraid is sinful and a sign that you don’t have faith and don’t trust God.
Actually, the opposite is true. For example, when the angel said to Mary, God’s chosen, soon-to-be mother of Jesus, “Don’t be afraid,” he certainly was not scolding or criticizing Mary. He wasn’t saying, “You shouldn’t feel anxious, nervous or worried. After all, you’re just a poor, unwed, humble teen girl, and I come as the head of all the heavenly hosts of the God of the entire universe to bring you a surprising message. You shouldn’t be afraid.”
That would be crazy. God wasn’t saying that at all. What God was telling Mary, through His angel Gabriel, was the same thing He is telling you about all of your God-given emotions, including your fears. He tells all His children facing fearful situation, “It’s good to be afraid, but don’t be paralyzed. Be energized by your emotions.” That’s what Paul told young, fearful Timothy.
When the elder missionary Paul sent young Timothy to an extremely difficult and depressing challenge, Timothy was afraid and worried that he would fail. Paul gave Timothy the same advice God had given Paul when Paul faced his own fears. “Fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you.” 2 Timothy 1:6
Paul didn’t throw a wet blanket on the fire of God’s gifts in Timothy. He urged Timothy to stir up all of his gifts, including his fears, and use the revived flame as fuel to energize him to be more sympathetic and more passionate about his work.
Paul said the same thing about the emotion of anger. When writing the angry Ephesian Christians, Paul did not tell them to stop being angry. To the contrary, he said God wanted them to “be angry (at sin—at immorality, at injustice, at ungodly behavior), yet do not sin.” Ephesians 4:26 AMP He wants us to do the same—to use our feelings like anger, pain and fear to invigorate, motivate, set us on fire.
I was six when the most destructive hurricane in years swept across South Florida and threw a palm tree through my bedroom wall. I was so afraid that I leaped out of my bed, made my way around that tree and ran to my parents’ bedroom and jumped into their bed. What do you suppose they did? Get mad at me? Tell me to toughen-up and stop being afraid. Or maybe scold me for being a frightened child? Of course not. They wrapped me in their loving arms, held me and told me everything would be all right.
When storms come crashing into your life and you’re that frightened child, be assured, your Heavenly Father wants you to jump into his loving, comforting, encouraging, and reassuring arms.
Picture yourself there and try this. Repeat this simple prayer of gratitude, “Thank you Father for all of your gifts. I give you my feelings of fear, anxiety and worry and ask you to use them to make me a more caring, grateful, sympathetic, humble, and better servant of yours. Amen.”