The epidemic COVID-19 is spreading fear across the globe. Only a few places on earth are unaffected by this scourge. In Singapore, though our government has been taking appropriate measures to control its spreading, fear is a real factor that is unsettling many of her citizens. Even Christians are not spared from panic.
Fear Plaguing the Heart
God has warned in His Word that when He would scourge the earth for its wickedness, the hearts of people would melt and be troubled with anguish and dismay. He might use various means, such as war and pestilences, to strike the hearts of men with terror (cf. Leviticus 26:18-29). The punishments included sudden terror, resulting from calamities of a biological nature like contagious and infectious diseases. To the children of Israel, He said that when they would rebel against Him, He would “send a faintness into their hearts” (Leviticus 26:36) and that He would give them “a trembling heart, and failing of eyes, and sorrow of mind” (Deuteronomy 28:65).
When Jesus spoke about the terrifying end-time events, He referred to them as “the beginning of sorrows” (Matthew 24:8). Luke records Christ as saying, “…upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity… men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth…” (Luke 21:25-26). These words of Christ forewarn us that in the days prior to His second coming, people will experience severe emotional stress that overwhelms and overpowers their senses. Acute, unrelieved fear and torment will plague people’s hearts everywhere. The end-time situation will be a lot worse than what is experienced today. No effort of man would alleviate such fear. People will be scared to death because of what is happening around them. The events during the end-times will be calamitous, and there is no escape from such terrifying times as described by Christ.
Concerning humanity of the last days, Isaiah 13:8 says that “they shall be afraid: pangs and sorrows shall take hold of them; they shall be in pain as a woman that travaileth: they shall be amazed one at another; their faces shall be as flames.” People will writhe in fear, and with astonishment they will look at one another, with their faces “aflame” (cf. Revelation 6:15-17; 9:6; 16:11; 18:8-23). Undoubtedly, the catastrophic end of human history will shock and terrorise the unbelieving world!
On the other side of the coin, “fear not” is an oft-repeated exhortation in the Scriptures. It is mentioned about 60 times throughout the Bible. God wants His people not to be consumed by fear which adverse circumstances will attempt to instil in them. He wants all His people to know that they do not need to be anxious and fearful. Rather, they must teach themselves that it is their Heavenly Father’s desire concerning them that they will not give in to fear. To ignore God’s will concerning us is a sin. So, we as God’s people must encourage ourselves in His love, care, protection and the glorious hope He promises to all who have trusted Christ as their Saviour and Lord.
Jesus has taught us how God, our Father, cares for us: “Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God? But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows” (Luke 12:6-7). If God knows and cares for a tiny, cheap bird which would probably be eaten by the poor, how much more will He care for His children, whom He counts very precious to Him. He even knows the number of hairs on every one of His children’s heads. Such is the meticulous care that God gives to His people. If He takes notice of such an insignificant thing as a strand of hair of His children, which we seldom pay attention to, how comforted and consoled we should be even when adverse and frightening situations arise!
When turmoil and tragic scenarios arise in the public and personal realms of our lives, we must know that these things are already foretold by the LORD – “In the world ye shall have tribulation”; to comfort and strengthen us, He also added, “but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). We may find ourselves having no ability to control our circumstances. Our best efforts may not prevent catastrophic events. Deadly situations may suddenly fall upon us. But our Lord wants us to know that He will never leave us and will always be with us.
We should never despair of trials and death. The apostle Paul teaches us to rhetorically ask in times of tribulation, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” (Romans 8:35). He then assures us, “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39). Note that Paul begins his list with death, which is the last adversity that we will experience in our earthy life. Even that final trial will not separate us from our God, because through Christ whom we have trusted, we shall enter eternal glory that He has prepared for us!
Therefore we can testify with David that “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4). Indeed, with Paul, all the believers can say about their final trial – even death – that “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8).
Whether we be in life with many of its trials or in death, we should courageously say, “Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us” (Romans 8:37). The knowledge of God’s loving care of our soul should cast all fear out of our hearts – “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18). Because His love has removed our judgment and made us His children and heirs of His eternal kingdom, we fear not even our last enemy, death.
So, let all fear be far from us. “For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living” (Romans 14:8-9).