We cannot move ourselves to the place of no fear. But the good news is that God can, writes novelist Serenity McLean.
I’ve spent years thinking about the implications of a devastating pandemic because in 2015 I started writing a fictional series on that very topic. Five years later and that fiction seems to have become our reality. The world now confronts a widespread pandemic bringing with it rampant fear.
Peace can be difficult to find in our busy, even chaotic world. But add a thick blanket of fear with Covid-19 and peace seems to have vanished. Some are in the camp that wonders why we are collapsing our country for something they believe is akin to the annual influenza and fear for their finances and future, and some wonder why the government is not doing more to stop what they believe is an unprecedented killer, and they fear the unstoppable virulence of this new virus. For both sides, fear dominates the news, conversations and decisions.
The Bible tells us to not fear, to not be anxious – about anything. Fear is not from God. All the days of our lives were written down by God in His book before we came into being. The length of our lives are already determined by God, not a virus or any other forces, natural or manmade (Psalm 139:16).
So how do we stop a rampaging fear that blinds us to God’s truth and destroys our faith?
I don’t think we can – at least I know I do not possess the strength to achieve peace in the face of unconstrained fear.
I grew up in a Christian home and heard countless sermons on trusting God and not fearing. I was a very happy-go-lucky girl in a stable home. So I didn’t pay much attention to those sermons because I didn’t struggle with worry or dread.
In the past few years I’ve experienced devastating losses. I know the day-to-day realities can push our buttons and soon our minds swirl with fear. We worry about tomorrow, about losing our precious loved ones, our finances, our job and homes. Now with Covid-19, life is no longer predictable and that brings another layer of stress, angst and even terror.
The problem with fear and its best friends worry and panic is that our thoughts are born from that darkness and we act out of that negative place. Darkness and negativity will never lead to light and truth, but deeper darkness. It becomes a sucking vortex, with each swirl we travel deeper into the abyss.
People will glibly say, “Don’t worry.” That is rather like saying, “Don’t think about a red balloon popping,” and instantly you are thinking of that very thing. Willing yourself not to worry is an unrelenting battle that few of us have the strength for.
Good Christians will advise you to leave your cares with the Lord. I hear that and wonder, how do I actually go about doing that? When fear wells up, I can say to God that I cast my cares on Him, but within moments my circumstances overwhelm me with worry. It is a war that I have never won.
I have come to the conclusion that a number of godly things we are called to in our Christian walk, such as peace, are not possible in our human and corrupted souls. At least to the levels that God talks about.
Much like the strongman game at the fair, the one where you whack a lever to rocket a weight up a tower to ring a bell, we don’t possess the strength to elevate our hearts and minds to the lofty places of true peace. We might get partly there, but we cannot ring the bell.
For me, verses like Isaiah 41:10 (“Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God…”) don’t help much. While brain-deep in fear and surrounded by dread-inducing circumstances that fuel concern, I cannot move myself to the place of no fear. I cannot stop its onslaught.
The good news is God can. It has taken me decades to discover the secret of peace. I need a download of God’s perfect peace, as it guards my heart and mind – the very things I cannot do on my own. Or perhaps it is more accurate to say, I need Him to lift me up to His lofty realms.
I often heard the verse where Jesus said that peace is what He leaves with us, but never actually thought it through. It is only His peace, a pure, refreshing, worry-cleansing peace which He provides, that will shield my mind from acting out of panic and guard my heart from dreading a long list of what ifs.
The difference for me is that it is no longer me trying to hammer the lever and drum up peace within. Instead I am asking God, first, to protect my heart and mind. Second, I need His perfect peace that bypasses understanding. And I need Him to raise me up out of the deception of my circumstances to the mental realms of His truth. Only He can flush away the cares and heavy burdens, replace them with His peace, elevate me to His high tower of protection and bring me up to soar at His heights. No human can pull themselves up to that wonderful place. But all I need to do is ask God to lift me up there.
And I need to ask for my daily infilling. It is like taking your morning vitamin.
For everyone struggling with fear in these most unusual days, here is my prayer.
Lord you are the protective tower and shield for my heart and mind. I choose to dwell with you today in your shelter. Your faithfulness is a deep barricade around me. Thank you for commanding your angels to guard me in all my ways today.
I know my days have been allocated to me by you. Your ever-attentive eye sees my circumstances. You know my needs and are a good Father of generous abundance.
Please flush out any negative thoughts and fill my mind with thoughts of noble things, things that are right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy today. Thank you for your gifts of power, love and a sound mind.
Thank you for lifting me above my circumstances today.
Thank you for your abundance of life-giving peace.
Serenity McLean is a Canadian fiction author (SerenityMcLean.com/Books). Her series of novels about a pandemic starts with the novels Rainswept and Veiled Agenda.