Faith and Fear

A recent report from Omaha indicated that medical personnel at the University of Nebraska Medical Center were being “shunned” for fear of ebola. As you know, two or three people with the disease were being treated at a biocontainment unit there. Kids of the medical workers were being disinvited from birthday parties.

Ebola is real and serious. But over-reaction may be symptomatic of a deeper malady. The mantra of our day seems to be, “be afraid, be very afraid.” Perhaps in writing this I’m joining the “anti-hysteria hysteria” as one author called it. Another labeled the feverish fear a “typically American response.” But why is that?

Blame complex times. Blame the twenty-four hour news cycle. Blame social media. Each has its part. Blame ignorance for sure. A recent University of Minnesota study suggests that people are more likely to be afraid of ebola if they failed to give attention to math and science in school. The example given in a New Yorker article was the fellow who when told that he had a 1 in 13 million chance of contracting the virus responded with, “Whoa, that’s totally scary. Thirteen million is such a big number.”

But this is the faith column, so let’s focus there. At least some and perhaps much of the cause for the irrational fear that seems to grip our country these days is our diminished faith in a benevolent, self-revealing deity. Fear flourishes as faith fades.

Israel sang a hymn to God, recorded in Isaiah 26:

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord himself, is the Rock eternal.

The Bible is filled with instructions to forsake fear. Angels appear to announce it. Jesus often spoke it. The stories of Scripture describe the interventions of God in the lives of those who chose faith rather than fear. I’ve been on the planet long enough to testify that most of what I feared never happened, and when it did, faith in God and the love of others carried me through the trial.

Oswald Chambers must have known fear. The Scottish author and military chaplain served in Egypt in World War I. But he captured an important thought for his day and for ours when he wrote: “The remarkable thing about God is that when you fear God, you fear nothing else, whereas if you do not fear God, you fear everything else.”

In frightening times, fear God and nothing else. That is, feed your faith in Him, learn of Him, revere Him and trust Him. Having done that, go to birthday parties.