Caution, Not Fear

“Seat belts.”

If you have kids old enough to buckle themselves in, you’ve probably said that more times than you can count. You know the consequences of not wearing seat belts can be horrific, so you tell them to buckle up every time you get in the car.

But you’re not afraid when you say it. You’re being safe. And there is a difference.

God does not want us to live in fear, but we are called to make wise decisions.

Some people in ancient Israel had a group of contagious skin diseases called leprosy. And the Bible tells us God gave them detailed instructions about social distancing.

Those in danger of spreading the infection had to live alone, maintain a distinctive appearance, and shout “Unclean!” so everyone would know they were contagious.

Today, we are not being ordered to wear distinctive clothes or shout “Unclean!” We’re only being asked to stay in our homes.

Unfortunately, without enough tests, it is difficult for many of us to know whether we are contagious, so if we lived under that law, we might all have to shout that we are “unclean.”

Some of us have to work in public, though: Medical personnel, first responders, sanitation workers, grocery store and gas station employees, utility workers, and others without whose work is necessary to our lives. (If you are among them, thank you.)

2 Timothy 1:7 says God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and self-discipline. James 1:5 says God also gives wisdom.

So just as we fasten our seat belts every time we get in the car, without being afraid, I would invite us to abide by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s order to stay home unless it’s absolutely necessary for us to go out, and if it is, to maintain social distancing, wash our hands, and contain our coughs. And I would invite us to do these things without fear.

Living in a fearful situation like this one without being afraid is not easy, so I have a few suggestions:

Limit your intake of the news about the coronavirus.

Log off social media for as long as you need to care for yourself.

Take a walk (maintaining six feet of social distance, of course).

Breathe. Inhale slowly through your nose, and exhale slowly through your mouth, at least three times.

And perhaps, pray. Maybe the Lord’s Prayer, or maybe something like this: “Dear God, I am anxious about what’s going to happen to me and my family and my world.” Hold out your hands and imagine your fear in your hands. Lift it up and ask God to hold onto it for you, at least for a little while. Ask God to hold those you care about but don’t live with. Pray also for those whose work our common lives depend on. Then say, “Amen.”

This column appeared in The Herald-Palladium on March 28, 2020.