by Nancy Ellis
The definition of fear is “an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain or a threat.” We are all human. We all feel fear at one time or another. Given all that is going on in the world, we have all turned inward to acknowledge how this humanitarian pandemic is impacting all of us personally. And rightfully so. We all know someone or are someone who has been affected by or with COVID-19. We have all lost a loved one, lost a job, lost a comfort, or lost control. This fear is personal. This pandemic is personal. With the rapid pace of change, it’s easy to get lost in our own personal situations and in our own fear. Some of us are trying to thrive in this new normal. And some of us are just trying to survive.
This new normal has also given way to more love, joy, perspective, intentionality, and generosity than we as a nation have seen in a decade or so. Over the Easter holiday, I heard Pastor, Joel Osteen say “Jesus is the antidote. And the antidote for fear is generosity.” Now, generosity by definition is “the quality of being kind, plentiful or large”. I could not help but notice how one of these definitions sounds singular and one sounds plural. One is about me. And one is about more than me. Bigger than me. Larger than me.
I put this antidote to the test recently. My husband is in law enforcement and the processes and supplies needed to keep all of them safe are… well, lacking! I found myself in a panic. Fearful for him, his colleagues, and our family. I started to stew in my own fear by first getting in my own head with scenario planning for the worst. Then, I took to social media to vent and find comfort. Surprise! I know, that did not work. The more I focus on myself and my fear the worse I felt.
As my fear, paranoia, and anxiety started to grow. I thought to myself, I need to do something different. I need an antidote but I will settle for at least a distraction. So, I asked myself, how could I be generous in this time of isolation? I could be generous with my time. So, I volunteered to make a few calls to the members of our congregation to check up on them and pray for them. I had a list of 100 names and I started to shift my focus from myself, my needs, and my fears to them and theirs. These 100 names on a list, these strangers, they had fears too. It was as personal to them as it was to me. This list became my distraction. And selfishly, it worked! My perspective shifted to how blessed I am in this season. That my husband still has work. And that he has not contracted the virus yet. That perspective could have been enough but God is so merciful he did not stop there with a distraction. No, he gave me the antidote. As I made my way halfway down the list. A young lady answered the phone and said “Hello?”
I said, “Hi, this is Nancy from Cape Christian. How are you holding up? Can I pray for you today?”
She said no. That she was fine. And that what was top of mind for her was the same prayers that we are all praying -for the health of our nation. I remember thinking to myself ‘what a pleasant young woman’.
Then, she shouted “Wait! Wait! Are you still there?”.
I replied, “yes, I am here”.
She went on to say “I almost forgot to ask you, how can I pray for you, Nancy?”
I was stunned. Out of 50 or so people I had spoken to so far, no one had asked me that. So, I swallowed hard, fought back tears, and said “Wow. Thank you! Can you please pray for my husband? I am fearful that his exposure to the virus is growing rapidly each day. He does not have what he needs to stay safe”. We prayed. I felt no fear. Just peace. Finally, the antidote.
Psalm 41:1-3 says, Blessed is he who has regard for the weak; the LORD delivers him in times of trouble. The LORD will protect him and preserve his life; he will bless him in the land and not surrender him to the desire of his foes. The LORD will sustain him on his sickbed and restore him from his bed of illness.
There I was thinking I was the generous one and yet I opened myself up to the generosity of others. Sometimes we hold on to our fears so tightly that there is no room for others, even God to take hold of them or remove them. Were my threats and dangers removed? No, but my beliefs and emotions were.
My beloved sisters, It’s ok to feel fear.
Acknowledge it for what it is, a personal belief and emotion.
Shift your eyes to others. Be generous with your time, talents, and treasures. Then, let God work! God uses people to do great work. All you have to do is make yourself available. This generosity might not change your situation but it will change your perspective. And maybe YOU, with the armor of God, will be the antidote to removing fear from this world for someone else.