I’ve been praying and reflecting on the state of our world over the last 6 months. It seems that we are in the grasp of a demonic darkness rooted in fear. This darkness is suffocating, intensifying, and seeks to blot out any light. We are fearful for our health, our finances, and our safety. Fear is driving division and unrest to isolate us against each other.
Fear is one of the primary results of sin, it’s right there with shame and death. Fear gripped Adam in the garden (Gen. 3:10), and we have been in its grasp ever since. At its most fundamental level fear is rooted in our separation from God, in our fallen nature. Cut off from God by sin we feel alone and abandoned, and we feel threatened and vulnerable---because we are. Fear causes us to act from a place of self-protection and self-preservation rather than how we were originally created to live through the gift of ourselves to other in free acts of love.
COVID-19 has robbed us of the false sense of security that we had control over certain aspects of our lives. More than anything it reminded us of our mortality with the shock and awe of a slap to the face. The Enemy has used this virus to shake us to our core and fear for our physical wellbeing over and above the spiritual reality that physical death is not the worst thing that can happen to us (Matt. 10:28). Confined to our homes, shut off from friends and family, we have taken drastic measures to preserve physical life at the expense of actually living. If fear is rooted in our existential crisis of being cut off from our relationship with God, then our response to this pandemic has been to further isolate ourselves from each other. No wonder anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and suicidal ideation have all been on the rise.
Even the social unrest we are experiencing in our cities over the problems of racism and police brutality are rooted in fear. So many people of color have a lived experience of living in fear. This fear has given itself over to anger and it some cases anger to rage or violence. This cycle of fear, anger, rage, and violence is self-perpetuating. As a society we have rejected the truths of God’s revelation about our own nature. We have rejected the idea of original sin, our inherited brokenness, believing that if we all work together, we can eventually create a utopia; if we just get everyone to think the right way, say the right things, act the right way then we can eliminate racism or hate. But the root of these problems of racism and inequality are not in external actions or systems, the root is in our fallen nature. Judging others by the color of their skin or selfishly seeking to gain all I can at the expense of others is caused by fear—fear of others, fear of going without—and self-preservation that prevents us from living as loving, self-giving sons and daughters of God.
There is a reason the bible tells us well over 100 times to not be afraid. We are a people who are given over to fear and distrust and it colors everything we do, our thoughts, our actions, and our relationships. Even as baptized children of God we are more often motivated and controlled by our fears than by living in trustful abandonment to our loving Father. It’s just in our fallen nature to be afraid, but God desires to set us free from our fears. The only hope we have in this fallen world consumed by fear is Jesus. Only he can set us free from these chains of fear that bind us. Only when we learn to live in the power of his presence can we experience this freedom because the only thing that can overcome fear is perfect love (1 John 4:18). When we know and experience God’s amazing, unconditional, free, and scandalous love for us then the power of fear is broken.