My kids and I entered Costco yesterday to do our usual shopping. Usually, I grab my own shopping cart while holding my membership card. Instead, I was greeted by a friendly employee who, seeing my bee-line toward the carts, rushed to pull one from the line and wipe down the handle for me.
“People who work at Costco are so friendly and helpful!” my daughter remarked, as I thanked him and headed inside.
I was curious if the Costco in our smallish city was out of toilet paper and water like the cities on the west coast. I’d observed the people walking out as we headed in, and it seemed as though everyone had at least one case of water and one package of toilet paper. After picking up some items on our list, we headed over to the section with the water and paper goods to get dog food. The management had posted a sign over the water and toilet paper that read, “Limit 2 per member.”
I picked up one of each item and continued to the dog food. I’ve been working on getting a case of water in every bedroom of the house ahead of tornado season so that if one part of the house collapses, we still have access to water in another part.
Pleased to see the still-full shelves, I continued with the remainder of my shopping. Elsewhere in the country, however, people are in full-blown panic mode. Why? What on earth is so different about this virus compared with ebola? SARS? MERS? Zika? Influenza?
According to the CDC, roughly 56,000 people die from the flu each year.
According to the NHTSA, 36,560 people died in car accidents in 2019.
At the present time, there have been 12 deaths from Coronavirus in the U.S.
Yes, you read that correctly: that’s a two-digit twelve without any additional zeros.
It’s possible that the virus could become a pandemic. It’s possible that more will die. It’s possible that the fears are legitimate, but that could have been the case with Ebola, SARS, MERS, etcetera.
I could panic…
…Or I could face the fact that death could come at me in other ways—car accident, tornado, cancer, flu, etc.
Some things are just beyond my control. It’s time to accept our limitations.
Worry stems from a desire to control.
We work hard to have money in the bank so that we can do something about problems like kids growing out of shoes or an illness that demands a doctor’s care. If we control our money, we can control what happens to us, right? Well, that’s only correct if if the money still has worth…
…and hasn’t been stolen…
…or devalued due to hyperinflation…
…and, only if the circumstances are correctable with money
If my child were to die suddenly in a car crash I didn’t cause or from a cancer I could not prevent, how is money going to fix that? It can’t! I cannot bring someone back from the dead.
We strive to control what is beyond our control while often refusing to control the only two things within our control: our attitude and our response. It’s much easier to focus on what we can’t control. If we look within ourselves, we might not like what we see!
Replace Worry With Trust
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus addresses some of our very ‘physical’ worries: food, water, clothing, and the specter of ‘tomorrow’!
Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
God is a keeper of promises. Trust Him to take care of your basic needs. Offer your best efforts to Him and entrust Him with the rest.
Replace Panic with Prayer & Perspective
Fear strikes and foolishness isn’t far behind.
King Saul is the perfect example of foolish fear:
He feared being king, so he hid.
He “feared the people,” so he disobeyed God.
He feared “losing his kingdom,” so he hunted down his best warrior like a madman.
Fearing the wrong things causes stupidity.
Listen to what Paul tells Timothy:
For God has not given us a spirit of fear,
but of power
and of love
and of a sound mind.
2 Timothy 1.7, NKJV
God has given us a spirit of power. He has infused us with His great love. He has taught us not to be swept away with the ever-changing winds of the world, but to be sober in our mindset. Replace worldly panic with powerful prayer and an eternal perspective.
The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4.5-7, ESV
We frequently quote Philippians 4.6-7, but let’s not forget verse 5! This verse indicates that our perspective should be eternal. Jesus is coming soon, so stop worrying and start praying. Furthermore, verses 8-9 encourage us to fix our mindset:
Finally, brothers, whatever is true,
whatever is honorable,
whatever is just,
whatever is pure,
whatever is lovely,
whatever is commendable,
if there is any excellence,
if there is anything worthy of praise,
think about these things.
What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
Philippians 4.8-9, ESV
Did you catch that? Control what you can control—what you think about and what you do—and the God of peace (not panic!) will be with you!!! When we work on controlling what is within our power to control, we stop living in fear and start walking by faith.
Whatever we are dealing with now—be it flu, coronavirus, or natural disaster—is temporary. We cannot control our circumstance, but we can control our response.
Will people see the power of God in my reaction or will the see their own desperate fear?