“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)
What startles you at 3 am, wrenching your eyelids open while shoving your heart into overdrive? What alarming part of this pandemic has been causing you or the people you care about to suffer a dreadful sense of fear?
Recently, this fallout from anxiety was the focus of our Zoom call with over thirty of our ministry partners from fourteen different countries scattered across the globe. Each one of them, seasoned leaders overseeing remarkable ministries, had accumulated years of experience working alongside the underserved. Incredibly, our friends from five different continents identified similar anxieties simultaneously plaguing their individual communities. Although they worked thousands of miles apart, the pandemic had created the same unnerving apprehensions.
Protecting their teams and loved ones from the onslaught of daunting news reports with their inevitable doomsday results became impossible. For those living in developing nations with inadequate health care infrastructures, the virus’s march toward them was even more frightening. The plague was bearing down on their countries, and their governments had nothing to ward off the onslaught. Would they contract the dreadful virus in their city with little medical expertise, or worse, would they be the one to pass on the virus to those they dearly loved?
Throughout the discussion, no quick fixes emerged. These men and women had discovered through the painful months how to survive, to endure, to be resilient. Honesty was an essential pre-requisite rather than any measure of pretense about navigating the future. Constant communication was critical while avoiding the minefields of on-line fatigue.
One by one, these leaders described the strength they discovered as they swallowed gulps of Scripture. Like wanderers trudging through a harsh terrain, they camped out extensively in passages with promise, reminding themselves and their teams that the pandemic had not erased this grand truth – “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7).
Stripped of much that was meaningful, prayer became far more essential. Time alone with the Father, individually and on group calls, brought resounding hope in every corner of the planet. Prayer kept them closer to God and close to each other. It was the antidote to panic, an unchanging, life-giving force they had to continually practice.
The fears of the night and the dread of the day could not prevent them from praying. Rather in some sacred way, the long list of impending disasters became prompts to pray more, to wrestle with the Father, to cry out for deliverance from the evil lurking nearby.
A year has come and gone, leaving us altered, bringing us all a deeper awareness of our total reliance on God. The voices from a dozen or so nations, now joining with ours in agreement, declared, “I sought the LORD, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed. This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him and saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them” (Psalm 34:4-7).
Elizabeth Ann Mitchell
Photo Credit: Dawid Zawila on Unsplas