Friday, July 5, 2024

When Fear Rules - Martin Wiles

when fear rules
For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. 2 Timothy 1:7 NKJV

All around, I witnessed evidence of fear.

“I can’t find eggs for under four dollars a dozen, and I’m not gonna pay that,” one of my church members said as we talked on the phone. “Nor can I find any toilet paper.”

The COVID-19 pandemic made people act in weird—even illogical—ways. Hoarding toilet paper was one of them. After a while, this practice became a joke and the topic of many memes on Facebook and Instagram. I laughed as I looked at them--but not when I, like my friend, went to store after store and couldn’t find any toilet paper. Or when I had to get to the store as soon as they opened to purchase only one pack after stores put a limit on how many packs a customer could buy.

“Eggs are just over a dollar a dozen at Food Lion,” I told my friend, “and they do have toilet paper early in the morning.” He told me he wasn’t an early riser, so I knew why he couldn’t find any.

“Do you want us to bring you some Sunday morning when we come to church?” Even though we were only live-streaming, we went to church to record the sermon. 

He said, “Yes,” and I could hear the relief in his voice. He was running low on toilet paper. Early the following day, my wife and I headed to the grocery store and made his purchases and some of our own.

Not long after our conversation with this church member, another texted my wife, “Could you see if you can find me some bread-making flour and packs of yeast? The shelves here are empty.” She lived in the same small town as our other friend.

My wife said she would, and we added those items to the list. But when we went to the grocery store early that morning, we had no luck with her items. She wasn’t the only one who had turned to making homemade bread since the shelves were often emptied of manufactured bread.

I had never experienced what the pandemic did to people. Fear and anxiety ruled, and worry followed in their footsteps. Stores couldn’t keep toilet paper on the shelves, even though diarrhea was not a symptom of the virus. Other paper products disappeared as well, as did hand sanitizer, rubbing alcohol, and Clorox. Even though they should have already had things hoarded, hoarders emerged from the woodwork and added to their stash. Meat disappeared from meat counters.

Getting what we needed required early trips to the grocery store, multiple trips to the grocery store, or multiple trips to many different stores. By the time stores finally caught on and limited purchases of certain items, it was too late. The hoarders had hoarded.

Listening to the news didn’t help. The President and his COVID Task Force came on the air almost daily, reminding me of President Roosevelt’s Fireside Chats during the Great Depression. And once a week, the governor of our state gave local updates and changes.

Initially, I let the hoarders do the fearing and worrying, but the more I listened to the news, the more I felt fear creeping into my life. Scenes of people fighting over toilet paper didn’t help--nor did seeing hundreds of people waiting at food pantries, hearing about the rising number of unemployed, or watching the military build field hospitals. Things that reminded me of war times. And we were in a war, just not with an observable enemy.

To top things off, the South witnessed a string of deadly tornadoes roar through—tornadoes that stayed on the ground for miles at a time, destroying homes and businesses and taking lives. Talking to my cousin, who’s a first responder, didn’t help. She told me about a little girl impaled on a tree.

When fear rules, anxiety and worry aren’t far behind. But Paul tells us God hasn’t given those things. Instead, He sends a sound mind.

Fear comes in two varieties: the “I’m afraid of” type and the “respect” type. The first is healthy if it relates to dangerous situations I’m trying to avoid or remove myself from. But if the things I fear are imaginary—things that might happen but haven’t—and those things control me, leading me to live in a constant state of fear, I then live in an unhealthy state of mind. The respect type of fear is good, especially concerning God. He has life and death power over me. I respect and love him because he’s my God and has provided for my forgiveness.

When the correct type of fear rules our lives, we won’t worry, fear, or be anxious. God controls all our tomorrows. He knows what we need, and just as he cares for His creation and creatures, he’ll care for us. When we trust him with all situations and circumstances, He’ll remove our anxieties and give us a peace we can’t explain. On top of it all, he’ll provide us with a sound mind that cannot co-exist with fear.

Letting the wrong kind of fear rule our lives leads to hoarding, manipulating, killing, and selfish acts. The right type of fear, however, leads us to selfless living where we trust God and love our neighbors.

Don’t let the wrong kind of fear rule your life.

Father, I give my fears to you and ask that you send me your peace. 

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