Fear, Frailty and Faith in a COVID-19 World
by Michael J. Penfold
The busy jovial self-employed painter I met yesterday in the decorating supplies shop was having none of it.
“I won’t be getting the virus. I’m immune to everything. I’m even immune to work!”
I smiled at his dark British humour, inwardly wondering if he was actually more worried than he was letting on.
The Romanian cleaner I met earlier in the day was, I think, more honest.
“We are scared. All my family back home in Romania are scared also.”
Fear is back. More to the point, what the Bible bluntly calls “the fear of death” is back.
But there’s another emotion overwhelming the mind of humanity right now. A sense of frailty – of helplessness, if you will – of not being in control.
Speaking on The Stansberry Investor Hour on 18th March, financial adviser and author Dan Ferris said, “I’m praying – literally, for the first time in decades. I’ve been an atheist for years. But literally, I was on my hands and knees, with my head bowed and my hands folded earlier this week, saying, ‘Please, if you’re out there man, we get it. We’re fragile. We don’t need any more of this.’ As you can tell, I’m at a loss.”
Perhaps a Bible prayer might help put it into more eloquent words: “LORD, make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is; that I may know how frail I am.”¹
Realising you aren’t in control of your death – never mind your stocks and shares – and discovering you actually have no idea what death is about or what may come after it, is at one and the same time both a moment of terror and a moment of clarity.
That’s why COVID-19 is a such an incredible wake up call to planet earth – not just about the need to ban live animal markets, and to invest billions more in our health care systems – but about eternity. About God. About our unreadiness to face the music for our hitherto “I did it my way” lives.
Most will probably ignore it. Others may prick up their ears for a month or two, only to go back to sleep “once we get through this” or once science comes to our rescue with a vaccine and we wonder how we could ever have allowed ourselves to be so silly as to worry.
So I guess this post is just a note directed at anyone who is genuinely thinking about the big picture and sincerely looking for a coherent satisfying answer. Fearful and aware of our frailty, to whom can we turn?
Sitting on the margins of our affluent, progressive, enlightened society all this time has been the only Person who truly has anything of substance to say to our world at this critical moment.
Jesus Christ, the eternal, living Son of God.
Because He has been through death and come out the other side in victorious resurrection, He alone can genuinely say, “Let not your heart be troubled…I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes unto the Father, but by me…because I live, you shall live also.”²
That’s why He deserves your attention and, ultimately, your trust – or as the Bible calls it, your faith.
Right now the world desperately needs more hospital beds, more ventilators, more time. But faith? Don’t mock us. How can a nebulous spiritual feeling contribute anything useful to this global crisis?
The faith you need right now is no vacuous will-o’-the-wisp religious sentiment, nor even a crazed leap in the dark. Faith is taking what God says in the Bible as gospel and staking your eternal well-being on it.
What does that look like?
It means that God is God. He is the almighty, holy, righteous Creator from whom you came and to whom you are accountable.
Most of the time we pretend He is not there. We call ourselves atheists. We say “Where’s the evidence for God?”. But our unbelief is really just a smokescreen for the fact that we want what we want when we want it, and no one is going to spoil our fun. The bottom line in life is always the same: who sets the rules, God or me?
Breaking rules is part of our DNA. As children, the quickest way to get us to break a rule was to give us one. But ultimately, all our rule breaking is against God. We have sinned against the Almighty, repeatedly and defiantly. Yet, in the greatest expression of love and mercy the world has ever seen, Jesus Christ suffered, bled and died on the cross 2,000 years ago, to expunge the guilt of our disobedience and sin: “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities, the punishment for our peace was upon Him and with His stripes we are healed.”³
If you will, right now, give up on any hope of ever making yourself acceptable to God by religion, self improvement or good works, and take your place as a fearful, frail, mortal deserving the wrath of God for ever; and then by faith look to God’s Son Jesus Christ – who on the cross “loved you and gave Himself for you” – and receive Him as your Lord and Saviour, you will be forgiven, delivered from the fear of death, and will receive the free gift of eternal life through Him.
Your fear of death, gone. Your frailty in the face of overwhelming catastrophe, swallowed up in the strength of Christ. Your faith, resting on the unshakable Word of God.
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- Psalm 39:4
- John 14:1-19 (selections)
- Isaiah 53:5