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Fighting fear in the face of coronavirus

 
Jonty Allcock | 19 Mar 2020

We are living through an incredibly worrying and disruptive time. Many of us feel afraid about what the next few months might hold. In his book, Impossible Commands, Jonty Allcock addresses the commands of God which feel impossible for us to obey. In the edited extract below, he walks us through God’s command to ‘not be afraid’ and how God can empower us to obey, even in the most difficult of times… 

We all feel afraid sometimes. We all get overwhelmed. It’s a very normal human experience. But in the face of that fear, God says, “Don’t be afraid”. How do we even begin to obey that command?

First, let’s think about fear. I experience fear when I realise that the resources I have do not match the situation that I’m facing. That’s true now more than ever. People are panicked that they don’t have the pasta and toilet paper to survive a two-week self-isolation. They’re scared they don’t have the strength to fight back an infection. They’re afraid they don’t have the emotional resources to weather the weeks ahead—in a confined place with too many people, or in a confined place with too few.

Do you remember playing on a seesaw? It’s great fun when you have a friend about the same size as you. You bounce up and down, and all is well. But it’s a totally different game when a grown-up is on one end and a three-year-old at the other. The toddler does not have the resources to match the bulk of the adult. They are left stranded in mid-air with their legs flailing around. There is nothing they can do; they are completely at the mercy of the far heavier partner.

On a seesaw that might be fun, but when that happens in real life, it can be terrifying. Sometimes, a situation lands on one end of our seesaw, and we have nowhere near the resources needed to cope. It’s far too big for us, and we’re left stranded in mid-air desperately trying to find some way to get control. Our legs are waving around but we are nowhere near the ground. We just don’t have power. Our efforts are futile—and so we get afraid.

The resources we have are no match for the situation we face. Have you ever felt like that?

A heavier solution

The Bible never minimises our fears. Over and over again we meet godly characters who experience fear. People like Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Esther, Gideon, David or Mary—in fact it’s fairly hard to find a Bible character who didn’t experience fear.

This is so important for us to realise. God does not view our fears as irrational or ridiculous, not even the “little” ones. He never suggests that we should just pull ourselves together. He never says that we are being silly. 

Instead, he gives us a Bible that is full of people who were scared—all sorts of people facing all sorts of situations that were far, far beyond them. Fears are very real.

But neither does God let these fears have the last word.

The last word belongs to the Lord, and that word is always “Do not be afraid”.

Although there are many things that are beyond our ability, there is nothing that is ever beyond God's ability.

Nice... but how?

How can God say that? How is it possible to not be afraid when life is so obviously beyond our ability?

The answer is pretty simple to understand (far more difficult to implement). Although there are many things that are beyond our ability, there is nothing that is ever beyond his ability. There is no problem, or battle, that is heavier than God. When God gets on our end of the seesaw, we find the power we need to get our feet back on the ground.

When God commands us to not be afraid, he’s not suggesting that there is nothing to fear and that we should stop being silly. He’s also not suggesting that we have the power within us if only we could look within. No, he is commanding us to remember all the resources that are in him and to find our security there. His command “Don’t be afraid” comes with the powerful promise “I will be with you” (e.g. Deuteronomy 20 v 1, 31 v 8; Joshua 1 v 9; Acts 18 v 9-10; Philippians 4 v 6-9).

This is what Paul discovered when he faced “beyond-our-ability” situations. 

But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. (2 Corinthians 1 v 9-11) 

Paul’s fear and despair did not drive him towards himself. Instead, it drove him to a deeper reliance on God. Paul did not look within; he looked to the Lord.

God’s good intention

The terrifying situations we face are an opportunity for us to rely on God and not on ourselves.

Imagine you lived the whole of your life without ever facing anything that was beyond your ability. You would never learn to rely on God and would live with the delusion that you didn’t need him. God loves you far too much to allow you to live like that. And so God, as a loving heavenly Father, brings you to situations that are beyond your ability so that you will rely on him.

When we feel our weakness, when we feel afraid—it is a God-given opportunity to discover in a fresh way the power and love of God.

I’m not saying it’s easy. Many of us know the reality of sleepless nights and painful tears. We know the questions that spin around our minds and the fears that haunt our dreams.

But our inability is an opportunity to learn to fear God. He is heavy enough. He has the resources.

We understand what a worrying and disruptive time this is for so many. So we want to reassure you that The Good Book Company will strive to do everything we can to keep serving you and your church families with the resources you need. Our customer service team is ready and waiting to help you by phone, email and text and our reliable warehouse team are sending out orders as usual. Over the next few weeks we’ll be working hard to bring you content, ideas and resources that we hope and pray will be both encouraging and helpful for you as you navigate the weeks and months ahead. For a hand-picked selection of books that we hope will encourage and strengthen you, click here

Jonty Allcock

Jonty Allcock is pastor at the Globe Church in central London. He is married to Linda and loves being a dad to three sons. Jonty is the author of Impossible Commands, Lost, Hero and Fearless.

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