High School Typewriters, Fear, and the Coronavirus

I was afraid and quarantined once before. As a sophomore in high school in Brownsville, TX in the mid 80’s, typing class was required. Yes, we used actual typewriters (like the one used by Ron Swanson)! Little did I know when class started that it would turn out to be ground zero for a disease outbreak in our city.

I had the honor of being the second person diagnosed with the German Measles. Only later did I learn that patient zero was the girl who used my typewriter in the class before mine. The local news wanted to interview me as one of the first in the area to have the disease, but not wanting to be known as “measles boy” by everyone in Brownsville, I declined my one chance for fame. I remember feeling awful and having to be quarantined in our apartment with big yellow quarantine tape stretched out across our front door to protect the public. I was young, sick, afraid, and cut off from everyone else.

Throughout my life iI have battled with various forms of fear, anxiety, and stress.

That wouldn’t be the last time I was afraid. Throughout my life I have battled with various forms of fear, anxiety, and stress. When many pressures hit at once or the tide of uncertainty rises, I can feel fear telling me that something is wrong, something I care about is threatened, and I’m no longer in control. When times of stress strike, I feel weighed down because my responsibilities are important, numerous, and challenging. As stress increases, fear increases, and so does an eyelid twitch, which is one of the first ways my body reveals that I am more afraid than I realize. Fear, in some form, has been close to me most of my life.    

God tells us clearly in his Word that the world in which we live is full of threats.  Over the last week, the globe is experiencing a significant threat due to the novel coronavirus. The power of the microscopic virus is real, and it is scary. Palpable anxiety surrounds us as restaurant dine-in areas close, schools close, dental offices close, groups larger than ten people are cancelled, gathered worship services are suspended, the stock market plummets, sporting events are called off, children talk to their quarantined grandparents on the phone separated by a window, and news of increased infections and deaths rise daily. The fear of losing a job, losing retirement, losing a business, or losing a vulnerable family member or friend is real. It feels like there is this invisible enemy somewhere out there crouching at the door ready to pounce at any moment. These are genuine reasons to experience fear! Christian neuropsychologist Ed Welch says it well, “In this world, getting rid of all your worries is not an option. Instead, the Lord counters your fear with comfort. So, as you grow, expect that your faith and your fear will be linked. When your fears appear, your faith is right there too.”

Since becoming a Christian in college, I have longed for a deeper understanding of the relationship between fear and faith in Jesus. For years I wrongly believed that a genuinely mature person in Jesus would have no fear at all. After all, there seemed to be multiple commands in Scripture indicating that fear and anxiety were sinful.  Didn’t God tell Joshua after Moses died, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened…” (Joshua 1:9)? In Isaiah, wasn’t God’s instruction to his people, “Fear not, for I am with you” (Is 43:5)?  When preaching his sermon on the mountain, didn’t Jesus say, “Do not be anxious about your life” (Mt 6:25)? After reading passages like these, it’s understandable that so many of us believe that fear and anxiety are evidence of weak faith.

However, I have come to learn that maturity in Jesus doesn't mean that we are never afraid.

However, I have come to learn that maturity in Jesus doesn’t mean that we are never afraid. Maturity in Jesus means that, when I am afraid, I grab on to him.  In Psalm 56:3, David wrote, “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.” Here is David, a man that the Lord says is after His own heart, being mistreated and captured by real enemies. They assaulted him and they did it with gusto and pride. It is important to notice that David didn't say, “my enemies trample me and attack me all day long.  But I am not afraid, because I put my trust in you.” No. He didn't say that. Instead he said, “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.” Peter echoed the same reality that fear and anxiety don’t vanish as we grow in spiritual maturity. Notice his counsel to dispersed and suffering followers of Jesus when he writes, “...casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you” (1 Pt 5:7). Peter assumes there will be times of anxiety and fear even for the most spiritually mature. The apostle didn’t tell his readers to repent of sinful anxieties. Instead, he invited them to bring their fears to the one who cares for them more than they realize. He reminded them that our Father desires to comfort and reassure. When a young child is learning to jump into the pool by themselves, the loving parent in the water reassures by instructing them, “Don’t be afraid. Don’t be frightened. Fear not, because I’m right here with you.” Those are words of comfort and reassuring love.

When you're afraid remember that, as any loving father would, the Lord wants his children to bring their fears to him and be honest about them. He wants to listen (Ps 65:2) and he wants to comfort.

It is not unbiblical or unfaithful to be afraid as the fog of the coronavirus continues to roll in. I’m afraid too. When you’re afraid remember that, as any loving father would, the Lord wants his children to bring their fears to him and be honest about them. He wants to listen (Ps 65:2) and he wants to comfort. That’s why Peter said we should pour out our fears and anxieties to him, “because he cares.” God never promised that his people would be immune to and untouched by viruses or other enemies. He did promise that he cares, that he is near, that he is at work, that nothing will separate us from our relationship with him, and that he wants us to grab on to him when fear grabs on to us. As God’s scattered people battling coronavirus fears, remember that maturity in Jesus doesn’t mean we’re never afraid. Maturity in Jesus means that when we are afraid, we grab on to him, because he has already grabbed on to us.