At the beginning of April, a report was published on the findings of the Italian-based AI company Expert System. They had been researching tens of thousands of social media posts in order to measure the changing public moods in relation to COVID-19. What they found was no surprise; that for the fourth day in a row fear had been the emotion most expressed in posts. “There are many reasons why fear is growing,” the team wrote in their daily update.
Yes, there are many reasons to feel fear, to be scared about what is happening. The report suggested that apart from the fear of dying, fears had something to do with not knowing what the plan is, or how governments would find a solution.
There was a time when I would read these reports and feel sorry for these unlucky people that had no faith in God, no faith in a “life hereafter” that would be a shield against the fear of the future.
The reason I felt like that was because I have been a self-satisfied woman who could mention good verses to other believers in difficult situations. Verses like:
“Do not worry about anything …” Philippians 4:6-7 (NCV).
I had always got a lot of help from that verse because it is a command: it does not give me a choice. It tells me what to do – pray to God with my needs – then it tells me what will happen – that the peace of God will come into my heart and mind.
I have practiced this verse throughout my life, and I have really needed to. It has saved me many, many times from the panic that can grip our hearts when something unexpected and unwelcome suddenly happens.
I had this faith that as long as I was a disciple I believed that God was with me whatever happened. I became an expert in it. I knew how to deal with difficult situations, and I thought I had really understood it, and so I could repeat this verse to others without going too deep into what their problems were.
Now, even with the global reaction to a virus that is killing lots of people quickly, I have felt calm. I know that nothing can touch a hair of my head unless God allows it. And that applies to my family too. I felt sober and serious, but not scared.
But then, the lockdown in the UK happened. At first the isolation, the fact that we couldn’t move around, and the connecting with friends, colleagues and students on Zoom was something new and even fun – until I realised that because all the members of my family in my household are self-employed, our sources of income are being cut back one by one. My husband’s customers are cancelling, my patients can’t come for appointments, my son’s students can’t come and be taught piano …
And if the person renting our other property can’t pay his rent because he can’t go in to work – that will be extra money we will have to pay the bank, coming out of our quickly decreasing income.
Then the fear suddenly hit, unexpected and hard – and it sharply pulled me out of my self-satisfied feeling that I had anxiety totally under control. Suddenly, my thoughts were: We could lose our house, lose our pension, lose our businesses.
I hadn’t expected to be hit like this. I’m a disciple. I know my life is in God’s hands. I’m not shaken by things that worry other people, people who don’t have faith.
So, do I really live this verse – do not worry about anything? Strange that I have not been tempted to worry about the virus attacking my body, but I can worry about losing my house.
There is one thing I must never lose
I had to think soberly and sensibly. What is the worst that can happen? What if I die? – I go to be with Jesus. If I lose my business? – I can find some other work. If we lose our house? – We can find something smaller. Ah, but if I lose my faith? – That is the worst thing that can happen.
My faith has to be tested so that it can survive the shaking that comes as a result of trials and difficult situations. If I don’t come in a trial that causes me to be tempted, then I don’t get the victory. I may not know what will happen to me or my family; I don’t know what direction God will take us in with our health, emotions or finances, but I do know that my faith must go deeper.
Yes, I was surprised that I was tempted to be scared, but should I have been surprised? It has woken me up to be a lot more watchful: to notice these deceiving self-satisfied feelings, to think about those things I so easily tell everyone, to really try to understand those who do feel scared and unsure. It has knocked me out of my comfort zone and that is good. Anything that tests my faith is good for me. In these uncertain times confidence in God has to be the centre of my life, my day, and my thoughts, because without that I have indeed lost everything.