Fear Gone Viral — Part II

In my first blog concerning the COVID-19 virus, I quoted Psalm 91 in which the Psalmist says, “You will not fear…the pestilence…” (vss. 5-6). The confidence and assurance that we have who walk with Christ is in direct proportion to how closely we are “[dwelling] in the shelter of the Most High…” (vs. 1). So personally, I do not fear this virus. I have tried to follow C.S. Lewis’ common sense from his Christian worldview that I quoted in that blog.

However, in this time there is something that I do fear — the ceding of our freedoms to the government. The media attention to this virus has demanded a response from our government at every level. By creating a fear of the unknown in the minds of the citizenry and by highlighting the worst-case scenarios, the fearful look to Government (Big Brother, if you will) to protect them. This event will likely end with fewer deaths than from a typical, annual flu virus. People like me, who believe that the Lord is our protection (along with common sense), will rue the destruction of our economy, simply because of “an abundance of caution.” Those who rely on government action to protect them will praise (or criticize) the response of our political leaders. This debate will go on ad nauseum.

When I lived in Oklahoma and a tornado ripped through our community, I recall waking up the next morning to the devastation. In much the same way, when this crisis is over, there will be a devastation to the lives of most Americans, and not just economically. Please understand that I don’t want the death of anyone, and I believe that responsible people were/are right in acting with prudence and discretion. But when someone in a retirement/assisted living/ nursing care facility dies in the midst of this and their families have been denied access to them in their last days, the loss will not be diminished simply because the death was not attributed to COVID-19. Already, just in my region of the country during this crisis, we have had an increase in suicides and domestic violence incidents. I have seen reports of increased traffic on pornography sites and warnings to parents about child predators who are contacting kids via the increased internet use.

When we as a people, though, look to government to provide, prudence and discretion go out the window. The failure to exercise “an abundance of caution” will make lawyers the winners in this crisis. As a friend properly put it, “Most are not concerned about getting sick; they’re concerned about getting sued.”

Our nation began when the people of the American Colonies recognized government overreach for what it was. Most of us know the first few lines of the Declaration of Independence, and we recognize the last paragraph and a few of the signatories, but we skim over the 27 “injuries and usurpations” that led to the Revolution. These grievances were like tentacles that slowly threatened to choke the freedoms of our Founding Fathers. They were abundantly patient — after all, it took 27 grievances to ignite the Revolution — and I am not advocating any kind of action at this point. But the ease with which the COVID-19 crisis has allowed for the disruption of our freedoms to assemble and to engage in commerce is what I really do fear. I am grateful that the Executive Branches of our government at the national and state levels are reasonably conservative at this time (at least in Tennessee). But I see states in which the leadership is less conservative and in many of those places the restrictions are far more stringent than here in Tennessee. What will happen when a more Progressive government is installed at the national level, now that this precedent has been set?

Another fear that has been highlighted in this crisis — and this is not a new fear — is that as a society our trust has become less in the God of Israel, revealed in Jesus Christ, and more in other things (especially, but not solely, government). Apart from Psalm 91, I know of no place in Scripture where “pestilence” is not linked to some form of judgment. Government will not protect us from God’s judgment, although many are demanding that it will.

As believers in Jesus, we should — and many of us do — pray for the end of this crisis, but it should also prompt genuine repentance — for our sins as individuals as well as our national sins.

Fear Gone Viral

For He will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence (Ps 91:3).

The fear that Covid-19 has caused around the world is (pardon the pun) at fever-pitch! Reactions in every quarter are over the top. Instead of determining the national championship in college basketball by letting the players play and televising the games for the fans (minimizing social contact) the NCAA canceled all sports! Other sports organizations did the same. Fear dominates the scene, even though we have the best medical care in the world and few will contract the virus and far fewer will have any serious complications. The situation reminds me of Proverbs 28:1 where people “flee when no one is pursuing.” (Dare I say that the subject in this verse is “the wicked”?) But, for many, the fear is real.

Since the news is dominated by the reactions to this virus, we are beginning to see people questioning the source as a new angle for reporting. Is it just a flu-like virus gone rogue, just as we experience every year? Some are starting to theorize that it could be a biological attack from the Chinese who were angry over the sanctions that have been imposed upon them by the United States. What I have not heard is that this is a judgment from God Himself. Of course, that would be immediately dismissed by the politically correct who deny that a God of love is capable of judgment. 

I looked up the word “pestilence” in the Scripture. I found there the comforting passage quoted above in Psalm 91, but I also found that well more than half of the references in Scripture are in Jeremiah and Ezekiel where they refer to pestilence as a judgment. Neither Jeremiah nor Ezekiel were concerned about the pagan nations of their world. The judgment of pestilence was upon Judah and Israel that had been given God’s Truth in the many prophets that God had sent to them, but who had been summarily ignored. Pestilence also was part of the judgment for those who prophesied (preached) falsely, preachers that gave their hearers ideas that they had dreamed up but which the LORD had not sanctioned.

If it has done nothing else, the fear that has gripped the world over this virus has demonstrated how frail and vulnerable human beings really are. There ARE things that are beyond us, outside of our control. And, even when this virus has been fully contained, another is destined to come. We need the perspective of CS Lewis who wrote, “It is perfectly ridiculous to go about whimpering and drawing long faces because the scientists have added one more chance of painful and premature death to a world which already bristled with such chances and in which death itself was not a chance at all, but a certainty” (On Living in an Atomic Age). If this scare awakens us to the certainty of our mortality, it will have done mankind a real SERVICE.

The confidence of the Psalmist is conditioned upon “dwelling in the presence of the Most High” and “abiding in the shadow of the Almighty.” That Psalmist saw the LORD as his “refuge.” The confidence of this generation in the midst of this virus-scare will also be conditioned upon our individual response to trusting in the LORD. Whether the origin of this is natural or man-made; whether we view this as a judgment of God or not, the proper response — in addition to discretion and good hygiene — is to begin or deepen one’s relationship to Christ. Since many are asked to self-quarantine, this is a good opportunity to find a quiet place to meet Him. 

If we, in faith, will turn back to Him, trusting Him when others are fearful, the LORD makes this promise to us at the end of this psalm: “Because he has loved Me, therefore I will deliver him. I will set him securely on high because he has known My name. He will call upon Me and I will answer him. I will be with him in trouble. I will rescue him and honor him. With a long life I will satisfy him and let him behold My salvation” (Ps. 91:14-16, NASB).