Fear and the Coronavirus

Is it wrong to be afraid of the Coronavirus?

It depends.

God gave us fear for a reason. As Jay Adams once explained, “Fear . . . is not wrong. God implanted all emotions in man. . . . Fear of dangers (e.g., falling over the cliff) that leads one to take necessary precautions is right and holy so long as it rests upon and grows out of a faith and trust in the providence of God.”

Biblical courage is not the absence of natural fear. It is the absence of sinful fear.

Sin can take this good helpful emotion and twist, pervert and distort it. If we are going to honor God as we face the Coronavirus, we must carefully consider when our fear becomes sinful.

Fear Is Sinful When It Keeps You from Obeying God’s Commands

Fear causes us to run away from things that frighten us.

That’s good, I guess if it is a lion chasing you. But, that’s a problem if it’s God’s commands. If God commands you to do something and you refuse to obey because you’re afraid, that’s obviously not the reason He gave you this emotion.

As you look at your response to frightening circumstances, it’s not wrong to be cautious and careful, but it is wrong, if your fear stops you from doing what’s right.     

Fear Is Sinful When It Causes You to Disobey God’s Commands

Fear is a very powerful force. If you’re not careful, it can cause you to do things you normally wouldn’t. Maybe it’s complaining, or lying, or even becoming angry. When you are afraid, ask yourself if your fear is causing you to disobey God’s commands.  

Fear Is Sinful When It Causes You to Think and Act Selfishly

It’s certainly not wrong to be concerned about your own safety, but it is wrong if you are so concerned about yourself that it stops you from serving others.

Would you call a man a coward just because he doesn’t want to run into a burning building? Of course not. But what if he is a father whose child is trapped inside that building and no one else is there to help rescue the child? If he still chooses his own safety over rescuing his son or daughter, you probably would call him a coward. Why? Because he put his own interests above the interests of his child.

Fear springs from an intense focus on self. The more selfish we are, the more fearful we’ll be. When we get trapped inside our heads and start wondering what people are thinking, what they are going to say about us, and what they are going to do to us, then fear begins to paralyze us. We get stuck and become continually timid and fearful.

Fear Is Sinful When It Springs from Thinking Unbiblically 

If your fear is causing you to dwell on anything other than the qualities described in this verse, it is sinful fear. If it causes you to dwell on things that are not true, it is sinful. 

Many people live in the land of “what if.” Their fear comes from dwelling on things that (1) they have no control over, and (2) most likely aren’t true. The next time you are struggling with fear, ask yourself: “Is this thought true? Is this thought honorable? Is it lovely? Is this thought in keeping with the qualities Paul described in Philippians 4:8?”

God has not given us a spirit of fear but of a sound mind. A sound mind is a sensible mind. It is a mind that is under control. Self-controlled, rational, sensible, biblical thinking is the opposite of sinful fear.

Fear Is Sinful When it Flows Out of Unbelief

When you become afraid, you need to examine what is at the root of your fear. Sinful fear is produced by a lack of trust in God. Many times when you become frightened, if you would just look at the root cause of your fear, you would see that it is because you do not believe the promises and character of God. Scripture tells us “the people who know their God will display strength” (Dan. 11:32).

In John Bunyan’s book Pilgrim’s Progress, when Christian begins his journey, he gets stuck early on in a place called the Slough of Despond. Bunyan says that there is a way out of that terrible slough, and the way out is through the promises of God. The same principle is true when we are stuck in the swamp of fear. The way out is the promises of God, but they are only helpful to us if we believe.

For example, take Romans 8:28: “We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Ask yourself: are you fearful right now because you don’t believe that God is going to work all this out for your good? After all, most people aren’t afraid of good things. If God promises that He is going to work it all out for your good, what do you have to be afraid of?

Or read Romans 5:3–5: “We also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts.” Ask yourself: are you afraid right now because you do not really believe that your trials and suffering have a purpose? God says that tribulations and trials produce spiritual good and that spiritual good is very valuable. So if God promises that He will use even your pain for your spiritual good, what are you afraid of?

When you become frightened, it’s time to go back to Scripture looking at promise after promise, and honestly examine yourself for the root cause of your fears.

If it’s unbelief, it’s sin and if it’s sin, it is damaging. 

Is it wrong to be afraid of the Coronavirus?

If it’s natural fear, no.

But watch out that natural fear doesn’t become sinful because that sinful fear will cause you much more pain than the virus itself. Fear sinful fear more than you fear a virus.

As John Flavel once said,

“It is a dreadful punishment for God to deliver a man up into the hands of his own fears. I think there is scarce a greater torment to be found in the world than for a man to be his own tormentor, and his mind an instrument of torture to his own body. What a dismal life do they live, who have no peace by day, nor rest by night. . . . The days of such men are terrible days, they wish for the night, hoping it may give them some rest, but their fears go to bed with them, their hearts pant and meditate terror, and then, Oh that it were day again.”

One thought on “Fear and the Coronavirus

  1. Thank you so much Josh, for strong biblical teaching on the topic of fear. This is blessing that comforts the heart.
    With gratefulness for your ministry

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