Words, are powerful things. In all of creation, nothing has had more power than words. Civilizations have risen, hearts have been driven, people have been forgiven, all through the power of words. Heck, even the universe was created, by words. Presently, there is a word, a teeny, tiny, five letter word, showing itself to have great power over mankind; that word is “Ebola”.
Since Christians are people, and as people we share this world alongside the rest of humanity, the Ebola scared, has left many believers just that, scared. For years Ebola has been an issue, and even its increase, did not draw much attention here in the United States, that is, until the disease came home. Ever since Ebola was first diagnosed in someone, on U.S. soil, it seems Ebola is all that people can talk about. Whether in seriousness or in jest, this issue has picked up steam, and is showing very little signs of will rest. How do we as believers respond to the Ebola outbreak and the variables surrounding it? Even if we are not affected by it, what should our response be toward those who are, as well as the attitude we have towards the situation they are in? In the midst the Ebola crisis, something larger has emerged, a broader commentary can be see on, a demon that people have been fighting since the dawn of time…fear.
To Fear or Not To Fear
As is often the case with things either people do not understand, or that pose a potential hazard to one’s well being. many have responded with fear to this disease. While this is only natural for human beings, for the believer I am not certain fear is the proper response. Apart from fearing God, Scripture does not really paint a picture of fear being faith driven, but more like flesh driven. Fear, in the fleshly sense, is our fleshes way, through lacking faith, of keeping us from the good things God has for us. Fear, which often accompanies or can be a part of anxiety, is likely a symptom of one depending on their flesh, not on Christ.
Fear can be seen in the midst of the surging trend of Ebola, and even though believers say they are not afraid, their response says otherwise.Our natural disposition to that which we often know nothing about, is usually ignorance. For some that means to ignore the problem, because if you ignore the problem it will go away right? I know that Ebola has not really hit the United States massively, but that does not mean it is not hitting elsewhere, nor does it mean that we should not have our thoughts, our prayers, out to those in places where it has. If you ever want to see the selfishness of human beings, just threaten their lifestyle, and more importantly their life. Especially for Christians, we sort of miss the point of “those who love their life will lose it” thing or the sacrificial living we are called to have. Who cares about everyone else, so long as I do not get Ebola that is all that matters. For others it can be manifested through their words as you hear talk of closing off travel, refusing treatment of those who have the virus, and even extermination of those infected with it. People can become their fiercest when frightened. There is an episode of Doctor Who, where the Doctor is faced by gun carrying people driven to want to kill out of fear. After reasoning with and diverting the crisis, he says relieved “Frightened people…give me a Dalek any day.” Fear drives us to say things without thought, to act apart from reason. Fear, while causing ignorant behavior in some, brings out satire in others. There has been a prank going around of a faux news article claiming a local town has had a citizen diagnosed with the virus. On top of this there are a great host of jokes going around about Ebola and certain individuals having it. This blows my mind because Ebola, in no way, is funny. I am the kind of guy who probably sees certain topics to joke about as less taboo than the average Christian, but the more I research Ebola, listen to the news, see the reality, I realize just how unfunny of a subject it actually is. Thousands upon thousands of people are dying, whole families being wiped out of existence, and yet we have the audacity to poke fun? How dare we? Humor may be a coping mechanism for some, but for Pete’s sake, a topic to joke about that is not causing mass deaths of human beings! Sheeeesh…..
“Worrying is carrying tomorrow’s load with today’s strength- carrying two days at once. It is moving into tomorrow ahead of time. Worrying doesn’t empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.”
― Corrie Ten Boom
“25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”
For many of you this verse is not new, but it is often those passages we have heard the most, that it seems we apply the least. If we truly believe what Christ says about anxiety, why do we fear, why do we worry? Yes, I get the whole being human thing, but because we are in Christ there is so much more to us than our humanity. We do this all the time! Since I am graduating this school year, I often worry about what is to come, where I will work, what ministry God has for me, I miss what God has in the present, by worrying what He has in the future. And yet time after time I have seen that God’s long term plans for me, have been different than my long term plans for myself. Sorry worrying, being anxious, did not help me anyway. I would even say the only long term plan God desires us to follow, is to follow Him today, and everyday. How many Christians are worried about catching Ebola? How does your view of Ebola reflect your view of God? Do you believe that God is mightier than, in control of, this virus? In case you have not figured it out, everybody dies, and no matter what you do, however long try to dodge it, some day, your day is coming, so stop worrying about how or when it will happen, and live for the Lord until it does. God knows our needs, He cares for us, looks after us, and we should resolve to not think otherwise. Even so, all our fears, anxiety and worry, does is add stress, to what is usually an already stressful day. Whenever someone asks me what my goal or plans in life are, usually I reply in jest by saying “to just get through today”, all the while there is some truth to that joke. When you think about it, examine the lives of those throughout Scripture, the passages regarding plans, the illustrations of living life, it seems as if the only day God wants us to worry about, on a personal level, is today. In whatever ways you find yourself fearful, anxious, or filled with worry, identify the causes, and do something about them. For me, when I look at my finances and begin to worry about how I will take care of them, I sit and make a list of all the ways I have seen God financially and materially provide. As the list gets bigger, my worry, my anxiety, all become smaller. Even dealing with our fears, the emotions may not go away, but we can have security in knowing the truth about our situations, even if what we feel tells us otherwise.
Bold and Brave
To me life has always been one grand adventure. The thing about adventures is, whether it is the footsteps of Frodo Baggins, hitch hiking Arthur Dent, or the oceanographer Steve Zissou, every adventure has its adversity, its fear inducing, worry invoking, anxiety causing, feelings of impossibility. Yet in all the adventure stories, new or old, one theme that is commonplace, the major point all those tales tell me is, these characters get through them, and in the end they are better because of it. For the believer it may not be until eternity, but because we have Christ, we are completely able to live not just boldly, but courageously. Just as Paul lived in a manner to follow Christ even if it killed Him, (and it did) so should we. Whatever you fear, Ebola, ISIS, being alone, finances, a test tomorrow or whatever other evil may come your way, fight it knowing that on this adventure, while things may get bad, feel hopeless even, you have Him, and that is better, that makes it worth it.
Artwork by Lucas Antoniack