I was shopping in my favorite aisle (think chips!) of my favorite grocery store (think Kroger!) when I saw her. An older coworker who was forced into retirement by unrelenting health issues, it had been months since I’d seen her last. Remembering the many times she had made me laugh, I now reached over to give her a hug, whispering “How are you?” into her ear as I did so. And it was only when we were in the middle of a tight embrace that she answered me with, “Honey, I’m sicker than a dog!”
“Great!” I thought to myself, releasing my hold on her immediately and backpedaling rapidly before I experienced a possible H1N1 download. While I’m quick to say that I’m not swine-flu-phobic, there is really no need to be hugging people who advertise that they are deathly ill! As it turned out, her symptoms resulted from severe pain from a strained back; she wasn’t contagious at all. And yet I still felt the urge to rush to the restroom to wash my hands, my face, and maybe take a shower!
I needn’t have been in a hurry. Clearly I was already showing symptoms, not of flu, but of fear. Our enemy is less concerned about whether we actually catch the virus than he is that we fear that we will. His goal is to plant dread so deeply in our beings that it accomplishes two purposes that work in his favor.
First, he is interested in our preoccupation. Nobody among us has time or thought to give to Kingdom living and saving the lost when we are spending every waking minute washing our hands, spraying disinfectant on everything within reach, walking the aisles in the pharmacy and searching the internet for the first available flu shot clinic.
The enemy’s second goal is separation. He knows that together we are so much more powerful than we are individually. The Bible promises that where two or three are gathered together in His Name, Christ is there in the midst of them (Matthew 18:20). And so he doesn’t want us meeting together, praying for one another or encouraging our fellow believers’ hearts in any way. Fear of catching a serious flu virus accomplishes that goal. The Bible instructs the sick to call for the elders of the church to pray for them, but suddenly we wonder if the elders will come, without at least having second thoughts about doing so. We question whether gathering together on a Sunday morning with all those possibly germy people is really such a good idea. He makes us think twice about hugging, kissing, even touching other people. And so we distance ourselves from the hope, help and encouragement that we find in one another, especially in times of need. The gifts God has placed inside of us go unused for fear that operating in them might put us out of circulation ourselves, perhaps for good.
The long-awaited flu vaccine is slow to make its way to this area. Daily the news programs detail the locations of flu clinics that are open to high-risk clients, and people flock to those sites and wait in long lines for the protection they seek. Yet we don’t have to wait for help to come in the form of a vapor mist or a flu shot. If we are at high-risk for fear of the flu there are steps we can take to inoculate ourselves against infection. The first is simply to enlarge our view of God. When we see Him in all His glory we magnify the greatness of His might and minimize the size of the enemy that we fight. The Bible gives us a clear view of Who God is and all that He longs to do for us.
A few weeks ago a lady in our church lost her husband just hours before the mid-week service was to begin. The pastor and his wife were obviously busy ministering to the family members, and the church service went on as usual without them. There was a heaviness in the hearts of the church family, however, an unease among us as we felt a burden for these loved ones as well as the weight of other needs in the congregation. At some time during the worship service, the door opened and the pastors came in and took their usual seats in the front row. There was an almost audible sigh of relief throughout the congregation as they did so. It’s said that the sight of the shepherd among his sheep will calm a nervous flock. And so it is with God’s people that our fears flee when we keep our Shepherd clearly in our sights.
Everywhere we turn these days we’re reminded of the simple hygiene tips we need to practice to slow the spread of sickness among us. They include washing our hands, covering our mouths when we cough or sneeze, and staying home when we’re sick. Perhaps the most relevant to us spiritually is the admonition to cover our mouths. We simply need to watch what we speak. Too often our words of fear become self-fulfilling prophecies over our lives. The more we fill our hearts, thoughts, and mouths with faith-building scriptures, the less room there is in our lives for doubt and dread. And they’re easy to find – just about anywhere we open the Bible, the words, “do not fear” are soon to appear, surrounded (as we are!) by the precious promises of God.
“Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.”
(3 John 1:2 KJV)
what’s the greatest challenge facing people of faith & the church right now? - God’s Word is the only thing that never falls apart — and holds us when we are falling apart.
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