I will never forget when the Gulf War began. I was scheduled to speak for a women’s group in a church near Lake Mills, IA. I wondered how they could possibility concentrate on my message when there was so much national insecurity and fear. So, I scrapped my prepared topic and focused on what was at hand…fear. And it seems only fitting that we again examine the beast of fear that seems to be enveloping our global society today.
When I reflect on the times in my life when I have been most afraid, it always centers around things that I cannot control. In God’s infinite wisdom, it seems that it is during those times when we are drawn closer to the comfort and strength of a God whose presence is with us when we are fearful for what we do not know.
Long ago I found a quote that helped me through all the times in which I feared the outcome. Someone wise said, “Those who fear they will suffer already suffer what they fear.” Wow!! That one sentence changed my whole perspective. If I could handle it in my mind, I could handle it in real life. I do not think that is a thing to be scoffed, I believe it is true. Our brain has the capacity to experience before anything happens the endless possibilities of what really could happen. Even worse than what could happen. Thus, if we imagine it, we have seen it…so we have the potential to deal with it if it came to pass.
Our 6th graders were dealt a blow yesterday when the travel agency coordinating their trip to Washington, D.C. for this weekend called and cancelled it. After crying through the heartbreak of the announcement, these 18 students turned their perspective around and today in Worship shared with the rest of our student body the blessing each found through this experience. That was truly an example of resiliency. Children will respond to trauma and other emotional reactions in direct proportion to that of the adults in their lives. Their teacher, Mrs. Mummelthei, modeled the way and now they modeled it to the younger students.
When I counsel people through feelings of anxiety or general worries, I encourage them to “go to the fear.” If we “go to the fear,” we face it and thus can become bigger than it. Inside our minds, as we stew and worry, fear grows into mountains too high to traverse. But when those fears are spoken and named, they become moldable into the shape and size of which we are bigger and of which we can control.
Our son, Andrew, was flying to Ethiopia some years ago to teach. On his way, the plane was to land in Sudan. As they were nearing that country, all of the sudden the plane began to nose-dive. The pilot forcefully called all passengers to resume a crash-landing position. Andrew told me that in that split second, he remembers feeling fear of what it will feel like to crash, but what was stronger was that suddenly he could look at his life and know that even though he would not do all the things he might have done had he lived, it was enough. Is another word for such an experience, “peace?” Perhaps.
So, as we face the unknown outcomes of this present pandemic, spawned by the emergence of the Coronavirus (COVID-19), which reaction or reflection would you choose? Have you already experienced the worst in your mind so that you can take on any experience that comes your way? Do you fear the feeling, but have peace with the outcome? Or are you curious about how you will come through to the other side of the trauma? Who will you become? How will you be better for it? How will it enhance your life, your faith? My husband, Donnie, once heard Pastor Charlie Mays say, “In my faith journey, I’ve come to learn three things. I’ve learned to be content with mystery, accepting of chaos in the world, and to realize who is in control.”
Today’s situation, our lives, our confidence, can change minute by minute. But God is in the chaos. God is the designer of mystery. God is there before we even know our need. Could it be that the purpose to be found in pandemics is to show us or bring us to God?