A Fearful Population
Throughout the events of 2020 and 2021, one of the critical issues I have personally seen is the rise of fear amongst the general population of America. This issue is not limited to those on the left or right, it is not a younger as opposed to older generational phenomenon. Rather, I have observed people of all ideological and theological stripes, as well as age groups, struggling with fear at different points. Now, admittedly the last couple of years have been quite the unexpected ride. We have had the entire situation of COVID, governmental lockdowns and authoritarianism, political strife, cultural battles, ideological conflict, and frankly that is just touching the tip of the spear. Undoubtedly, historians will go on to debate and discuss the period we have lived through for many years.
With all of those realities being stated, the fear and pandemonium amongst the people has been incredibly eye-opening. Individuals in positions of business and church leadership, those at the head of academic institutions, and highly educated medical professionals have also demonstrated fearful attitudes. Certainly, not every individual has given in to the fear epidemic, but it is a mainstream issue. 80% of Americans are terrified of corrupt governmental officials, over 50% are fearful of civil unrest, economic collapse, cyber-terrorism, and a major pandemic.1 Over 40% live in fear of white supremacists, a nuclear weapons attack, and the governmental usage of drones in the United States. Point being, Americans are living in a tremendous amount of fear for a wide variety of reasons being terrified of a vast amount of things largely over which they have no control whatsoever.
The Need For Levelheaded Clarity
At the end of the day, I have seen countless decisions made by people simply because they live in the grip of fear. Many churches have locked their doors not because of statistical data showing COVID is literally the next bubonic plague, or robust biblical and theological examination of the situation, but irrational decisions made by people in the grip of fear and panic. What we see is that many individuals are actually living in fear over things they cannot influence. Goodness, according to the survey I cited earlier, 20% of Americans are fearful because of Murder Hornets. Frankly, you and I literally have zero control over whether or not a Murder Hornet shows up to our homes, and if it does, I would recommend we kill it instead of locking ourselves up in a room terrified by the hideous insect waiting on it to crawl under the door!
People of the left and right, old and young, male and female, are really and truly struggling with fear in our nation. What I want to assert in this post is the great need for simple, old-fashioned, levelheaded, biblical clarity and courage in our society. Many of us as Americans have allowed ourselves to be held in the grip of fear. What action we should take is to choose to do our best to live with courage and trust in the sovereignty of God encouraging others to do the same. To make decisions based upon the right application of Scripture and to have our emotions anchored by the stability of the Word as opposed to yo-yo-ing up and down, according to the newest story from the media. Those who are an emotional wreck being driven by irrational fears will not make good decisions in moments of trial, nor stand steadfastly in the day of adversity. What we need in our hour is for men and women to step up to the plate and live with trust in God and demonstrate courage in the midst of the moment to which He has called them.
An Ancient Illustration
Imagine with me for a second that God places you in a unique situation. He has breathtakingly taken you and your people out to freedom from being enslaved under a brutal and oppressive ruler. He has not left you alone, but has given His perfect law so you might know how He has called you to live, yet the people around you were disobedient, so you have to wander in the wilderness for 40-years. After the brutal period of wandering, you find out the faithful, but imperfect man God had used to lead your people and deliver them from bondage is now dead. God looks to you, appointing you in the position of leadership amidst your people, to go into the land He has promised them, in order to take it. This affair will not be peaceful, there will be war, battles, blood, and fighting. There will be moments when you will be outnumbered and outmaneuvered. However, God tells you again and again that He will be with you, that you must not fear, but act with courage in the heat of the battle trusting in the power of God.
How would you react to this situation? Would you think about all of the battles lying ahead of you and tremble? Imagine the people to your right and left, those who you have spent your entire life with going into the heat of the battle. Maybe entering this new land would put you amidst disease and sickness to spread amongst your own people. Perhaps you could run into famine and natural disasters of every sort. There are 10,000 different aspects you could choose to worry about. However, God has commanded you, explicitly, to not live in fear. One of the key biblical figures, Joshua, actually lived through this situation in a courageous way for the glory of God. God told Joshua multiple times to “Be strong and courageous” illustrating the importance of this reality.
The Heart of Fear and The Source Courage
At the root, fear stems from a lack of trust in God, who is Himself the fountain of courage and strength. Isaiah 41:10 says:
“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” -Isaiah 41:10
Notice God specifically commanded His people not to fear because He will be with them. Our fear stems from the fact we do not trust that God knows what is best, which means we live in fear of what may or may not happen. The command to live without fear in the Bible has nothing to do with a mythical belief that trying circumstances do not happen in life. Rather, it stems from understanding who God is and the fact that all things are under His sovereign control. Therefore, even when something difficult befalls us, we can know that it has passed through His omnipotent hand as something for us to go through with faithfulness for the glory of His name. What we need is for Christians to live like Joshua, to stare right at the bloody nature of the battles that lie ahead, and march forward with confidence, knowing that God has equipped us for the war which He has set before us!
May we again renew our strength as the people of God and live courageously as He has called us. Be wise . . . yes, but do not give in to sinful fear. Do not be like the culture that is constantly paralyzed in the grip of anxiety. Instead, put flesh and bones on your trust in God by living according to His Word in the midst of a chaotic culture. What good is training a man to be a skilled warrior if he shrinks back out of fear when the fighting starts? Rather, let us run forward, living according to the commands of God charging into the moment He has appointed us to live. We only have one life, may we live it courageously, instead of losing it one day at a time paralyzed in fear!
1 All statistics can be found here: https://www.chapman.edu/wilkinson/research-centers/babbie-center/_files/Babbie%20center%20fear2021/blogpost-americas-top-fears-2020_-21-final.pdf