Responding to Crisis
Our world is changing rapidly. What was true on Monday had changed by Tuesday and every day presents new challenges, questions, adjustments and restrictions as we all struggle to figure out how to navigate something we’ve never faced before.
I’m watching two extreme responses among my own circles: the panic and anxiety so many are living with as well as the arrogance and cavalier attitudes that others carry. Where do I land in the midst of this? Where should I land in the midst of this? I’m alternately dismissive (we’re young and healthy and the threat isn’t imminent) and cautious (I taught 200 Chinese students online last month as an ESL teacher and have very real people in my life who have lived through much worse than what we’re currently facing.)
Some say “trust God” and take risks that seem foolhardy.
Others panic and turn inward, hoarding resources and living in fear.
What is our call as believers?
The Christian response to fear
I know God does not call us to live in constant fear, despite how bad it may be:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)
But neither is it to think we’re above the advice given to us by our leaders and authorities.
Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. (Philippians 2:3-4)
The Upside of Fear
If I’m honest, I’m a little tired of hearing “don’t be afraid.” I get it, but I’m not sure it’s helpful advice. Fear in itself isn’t bad. It just becomes a problem when it takes control of us. Fear is sometimes God-given, and there’s many times we’re actually encouraged to fear.
Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor. 1 Peter 2:17
Fear is the warning light on your dashboard or the signs on the road showing danger up ahead. It’s meant to flag something that needs fixing, tell you to slow down, pay attention or avoid a certain path. Wisdom means we notice that fear and make adjustments to avoid harm or danger.
Your oil light goes on? That’s a good thing. It tells you to stop and fill up the oil.
Are you afraid of financial insecurity? It’s okay to stop and find out what resources are available to you, to rework your budget, to get in touch with different institutions to find out if you can work together during this crisis.
That’s letting a legitimate fear drive you to take action to avoid harm.
The one who gets wisdom loves life; the one who cherishes understanding will soon prosper. (Proverbs 19:8)
Fear at the wheel
It’s when that fear consumes us, overwhelms us, gets its hooks in your mind until you can’t think beyond fear that problems arise.
Fear is meant to be the warning light, never the driver.
So I’m not going to be one of those people that says HAVE NO FEAR.
It’s okay – even healthy – to have some fear.
But I will be one of those people that says DON’T LIVE IN FEAR.
When has it helped to be told, “Don’t worry about it?” Never. So let’s get practical. When you are afraid:
1. REMIND YOURSELF OF TRUTH.
God is on his throne.
You are not alone.
God is still good.
Read your Bible. Pray the names of God. Remember who God is.
2. FOCUS ON WHAT YOU CAN CONTROL, NOT WHAT YOU CAN’T
I can’t control the spread of the virus.
I can’t control what other people do.
I can control my actions.
I can control to contribute to the chaos or be a peacemaker right now.
3. FILL YOUR MIND WITH GOOD THINGS
We’re tied to social media and technology to stay in touch these days, so I can’t tell you to get off of it but…
Social media is GREAT for spreading fear and anxiety. Limit how much you are on. Be careful who you follow. You may have to unfollow some friends or organizations for the time being for the sake of your own mental health. Give yourself permission to do that. Fact check what you read with reputable organizations.
Read your Bible.
Call a friend. Have a meaningful conversation rather than just scrolling through their posts.
4. BE PART OF THE SOLUTION
There are so many isolated people right now. As much as you are suffering in this situation, there is someone else who needs what you can offer. Call a nursing home and ask who needs human connection. Send them a card.
Call a church and ask who needs a daily phone call. Commit yourself to a daily check in – even a short “hello!” can go a long way.
Spread love, not fear.
Pray. Then pray some more!
We as believers have such an opportunity to be a light right now – not by pretending everything is fine, or “trusting” we’re safe, but by walking the path of wisdom. Allow fear to do its job to help us avoid dangers, then let it go. Embrace the peace God promises us and choose the path of love.
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear… (1 John 4:8)