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I have spent a lot of time since May traveling around the U.S., most recently to Colombia and Ecuador. Flying in the midst of a pandemic is challenging as one must wear a face mask for long periods of time, enduring some long flights without refreshments and experiencing many flight changes as the airlines struggle to conduct business in such uncertainty.
Throughout the pandemic I have been in constant contact with our many ministry associates in Latin America and working to encourage and help them as their governments have taken very severe measures in combating COVID, leaving many on the verge of starvation and financial ruin. Many of my friends have had COVID, with some of them thinking they would die. Thankfully all have experienced a full recovery. In some of the remote areas of Latin America, there are towns in which we work that have had as much as 80% infection of COVID with no access to modern medical assistance. Thankfully the great majority of them survived and have continued on with their lives, but COVID has killed many I don’t personally know.
During these long months, many of us who play the role of spiritual leaders in other’s lives have found it very helpful to continuously speak words of encouragement and hope to those who are dealing with great fear. The media has done an extraordinary job of keeping the fires of fear stirred up with daily infection rates, deaths, hospitalizations and demands to keep people shut away in hiding. As a dear Christian friend of mine expressed her great fear during this time, it is clear that many are dealing with the greatest fears of their lives. As Christ followers, we know in our heads that God is good and promises to protect us, but our hearts have struggled to believe this truth in the midst of the avalanche of bad news about this sickness, the economy, societal strife in an election season.
Outside the U.S., I have especially observed the fear that has gripped so many. I have been required to wear a mask at all times in public spaces, have had my temperature checked repeated, have been sprayed with disinfectant and told every few minutes to wash my hands with gel. I’ve also seen the fear in many people as you walk near them in the streets or ride in an elevator, as though I might have Ebola or leprosy. People don’t know whether they should wave at you from a distance, bump fists, touch elbows or take the extraordinary risk of giving you a quick hug, even while always wearing a mask.
Fear can be much more contagious than any sickness or virus!
Fear can be much more contagious than any sickness or virus! It spreads quickly when one’s focus is on the worst cases, magnified through the 24-hour news available to anyone interested in tuning in. I’ve been mostly fear free due to my healthy lifestyle and history of overcoming sicknesses, but fear has tempted me occasionally. I’ve dealt with fear most of my life; fear of failure, lack, poverty, pain, and death amongst others. With God’s help, I have overcome most of them, but sometimes I have revisited some fears I thought I had put behind me. This always occurs when I no longer trust God in that area of my life. As that happens, I fight against these fears by using God’s word and promises and it always works! The Bible is full of God’s promises to provide, protect, deliver and care for those who will trust in Him. Lately I have spent a lot of time meditating on Psalm 91. Meditating means to think of something over and over again, asking God questions about what it and listening to what He says. As we do this, He breathes life into His word, and it becomes a powerful tool and weapon to overcome whatever challenge we face.
I encourage you to read this Psalm over and over again until it goes from just residing in your head to being firmly planted in your heart. Here are a few highlights: Verse 1: “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High, will abide in the shadow of the Almighty!” Verse 3: “For it is He who delivers you from the snare of the trapper and the deadly pestilence.” Verse 5: “He will cover you with His pinions, and under His wings you may seek refuge.” Verse 10: “No evil will befall you, nor will any plague come near your tent.” I believe what He says and go about my day thanking Him for a bubble of His protection surrounding me. I wash my hands, wear my mask, and respect others, but I refuse to let fear get ahold of me. Life is too short and precious to live in fear’s grasp, even in the midst of a pandemic. Let’s put all our energy into believing and trusting God, taking the necessary measures to assure our safety but put no energy into entertaining the thoughts that fuel the fires of fear in our lives. When we believe God is bigger than everything around us, He is empowered to perform His work in our lives.