Friday, March 22, 2024

When Panic Sets In - Martin Wiles

When Panic Sets In
The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm. Exodus 14:14 NLT

Dead ends faced me in every direction I turned.

Every fall, when apple-picking time arrived, my wife and I, along with our daughter and her two boys, made our way to Hendersonville, North Carolina. We enjoy the scenery, love the apples, and enjoy watching the grandboys play on the various attractions.

One activity we always enjoy entails walking through the corn maze. Walking through a cornfield where the corn reaches higher than my six-foot frame brings back fond memories—memories of doing the same as a boy as my cousin, and I ran through our grandfather’s corn fields.

The corn maze also reminds me of an attraction at the local fair where I grew up in Orangeburg, South Carolina: the Glass House. As I recall, I only mustered the nerve to do it one time. Everywhere I turned, I hit a glass wall. I finally made my way out, but not before panic set in.

While I enjoy the corn maze, I always feel a sense of anxiety when walking through it. Paths lead in all directions. I have no way of knowing which one will lead me to the end of the maze. Fortunately, I have my wife ahead of me, and she has a better sense of direction. But even with her excellent nose, we hit several dead ends. A sign greeted us, telling us we had come the wrong way.

Since the corn stalks stretch tall like a church steeple, seeing over them to find a landmark that would direct us back to the apple barn was impossible. Finally, we made our way out. Although I was a little anxious, I did not panic. In this case, I knew I could walk out of the field if I wanted to and see where I was.

Not so easily solved with COVID-19, which hit in full force during 2019-2020. People in China contracted it initially, and many died. Suddenly, the virus left China and marched across the world. The number of infected grew—and thousands died. With no cure available, panic grew. Toilet paper disappeared from shelves like a chicken thief with his goods—even though diarrhea was not a symptom of the virus. Hand sanitizer followed. My wife and I walked through retail and grocery stores and saw empty shelves. People hoarded food items as well. Doomsday thinking reigned.

Panic had a domino effect. Sporting events were axed. Churches canceled services. The President of the United States declared a national state of emergency. Governors closed schools. Even the private school where I teach closed. Everywhere, panic and anxiety rose and multiplied. People were encouraged to social distance themselves from places where fifty or more people would be gathered—then ten. Restaurants closed their dining areas and only opened the carry-out or drive-thrus.

Panic also gripped God’s people. They had just left four hundred years of slavery in Egypt. As they made their way toward the Red Sea, the king of Egypt—who had changed his mind about letting them go—hounded them. When the children of Israel looked around, they saw Pharaoh and his armies behind them and the Red Sea in front of them. Moses, their leader, told them to stay calm. The Lord would fight for them. Moses’ message was the same I heard from official after official during the Coronavirus: stay calm.  

When panic over dire circumstances sets in, we should remember a big but comforting word: sovereignty. The Bible attributes this trait to God. He is in control. He has not stepped away from his throne, where he rules the world.

God will also watch over His children. This does not mean we won’t succumb to the sickness, but God will give us wisdom to do what we need. And if a disease or natural disaster should snatch our lives away, God has an eternal home awaiting us. Knowing this, however, should not prevent us from taking every precaution we can. God gives us a mind to use and His Spirit to guide us along proper courses of action.

Trust is the key. God tells us not to be anxious or worry. He will supply our needs. Whatever we’re anxious about, we can present to him in prayer, and he will give us a peace that exceeds our understanding.

Panic sends a bad message that we think things are out of control, but they aren’t. God controls the timing and the duration of the situation and uses it for his good purposes—as well as ours.

When circumstances appear out of control and you are tempted to panic, remember who controls the situation.

Father, I look to you to lead me away from panic and fear and to trust instead. 

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