“God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble.2 Therefore we will not fear, Even though the earth be removed, And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea… The LORD of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge.” Selah. Psalms 46:1-2, 7.
About a week ago, I shared this post on Facebook: “This too shall pass, and we shall do better than survive.” That is my conviction concerning the Covid-19 pandemic that has put our world on edge and could permanently alter how we live and relate with one another. Wherever you go, there is palpable fear and people are wondering whether this is the apocalypse.
Recently, one of the leading virologists in Nigeria, Professor Oyewale Tomori, made a comparison between Covid-19 and the Ebola virus. He said that the Ebola virus is a ‘superman’ when compared to Covid-19! He meant that the Ebola virus is by far more potent than Covid-19! Yet, we survived the Ebola scourge. The God who helped us to pass through Ebola will also help us in the present pandemic. When David was to face Goliath, he drew courage from his victory over the bears and lions. If God could help him to defeat those ferocious beasts, then Goliath would also be defeated. God who helped us in the days of Ebola will also help us through the present Covid-19 pandemic.
GOD IS OUR REFUGE
The Psalmist declared that God was his refuge. A refuge is a place of safety. The Message version renders verse one thus: “God is a safe place to hide, ready to help when we need him.” (Psalms 46:1). The Psalmist affirmed God as his impenetrable defence ostensibly in a time of crisis such as we have now. And all over the Psalms we see that as a recurrent basis for his confidence. For instance, in Psalm 32:7 we read “You are my hiding place; You shall preserve me from trouble; You shall surround me with songs of deliverance.” (Psalms 32:7). Then he goes further to say, “Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You. 4 In God (I will praise His word), In God I have put my trust; I will not fear. What can flesh do to me? (Psalms 56:3-4).
God is our refuge, “Therefore we will not fear.” There is no doubt that the dominant spirit in the world today is that of fear. It fits into the scenario Jesus described that would precede His return, “And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring; 26 men’s hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.” (Luke 21:25-26). When each day we are bombarded with news of who has tested positive to the Coronavirus; when we hear of prime ministers, governors, royals and celebrities, etc coming down with the virus the natural question will be “when will it get to me?”
But, long ago, I learned to say “My own case is different” whenever I hear of bad things happening around me. Thrice in the Book of Exodus during the plagues God said He would make a difference between His people and the Egyptians (Exodus 8:23; 9:4; 11:7). Did the Bible not say that, “A thousand may fall at your side, And ten thousand at your right hand; But it shall not come near you.” Psalms 91:7. Again, “Because you have made the LORD, who is my refuge, Even the Most High, your dwelling place, 10 No evil shall befall you, Nor shall any plague come near your dwelling;” (Psalms 91:9-10).
WE SHALL NOT FEAR
Someone has described fear from its acronym: False Evidence Appearing Real. Another description of fear is that it is believing that something bad will happen. Faith is the converse. So, maybe, a vital question to answer at this time is, “what do I believe?” Do you believe that you will come down with this virus or go over it by God’s grace? The unfortunate thing is that fear actually predisposes people to the very things they are afraid of. That is what we learn from Job. “For the thing I greatly feared has come upon me, And what I dreaded has happened to me.” (Job 3:25). Apparently, all his painstaking sacrifices concerning his children were borne out of fear!
Fear weakens our defence system, it makes us vulnerable to the enemy’s attacks. Fear is like an Outrider for the enemy. The best place to stop the enemy is at the gate. Don’t give room to fear; once you sense a foreboding, that’s the time to deal with it. “Leave no [such] room or foothold for the devil [give no opportunity to him].” (Ephesians 4:27 AMP). If you give the devil an inch, he’ll take a mile!
STARVE YOUR FEAR
There is no doubt that what is fueling fear in this time of global pandemic is the media. We live in an age when we have access to all kinds of media. The social media has become a major stimulant to people’s fears. The average person now knows more about the Coronavirus than the Ten Commandments! The media has been in a frenzy. Everywhere you turn, it is talk about the virus. Everyone has become an arm-chair expert in the field of virology!
What this is doing is to exacerbate the fears of people. When you watch the number of infected people and those succumbing to the disease every hour, fear just takes over. That is why this advice from the Council of Psychologists is quite instructive: “Isolate yourself from news about the virus (everything we need to know, we already know); do not look for additional information on the Internet, it would weaken your mental state and could cause somatization; avoid sending fatalistic strings and messages. Some people do not have the same mental strength as you (instead of helping, you could activate pathologies such as depression)…”
FEED YOUR FAITH
We know that “… God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7). Also, “For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.”” (Romans 8:15). How do we feed our faith? The Bible gives us a clear answer: “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Romans 10:17). We need to switch from the media that is generating fear to one that will fortify our faith at this time. Read your Bible, listen to audio messages and watch videos that will build and strengthen your faith.
It is unfortunate that many people will use the lockdown period to be glued to their TVs and social media for only entertainment instead of something that will edify them. Neither Hollywood nor Nollywood has an answer to the present predicament that the world is passing through. In fact, many of them have come down with the virus and are looking for solution. Faith is our victory over this disease. “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. 5 Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:4-5).
But faith has a voice, it is neither passive nor silent. This is not the time to keep quiet, it is the time to speak out. Paul said, “And since we have the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, “I believed and therefore I spoke,” we also believe and therefore speak.” (2 Corinthians 4:13). This is the time to declare what you believe. “I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.” (Psalms 91:2). “Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, Whom He has redeemed from the hand of the enemy,” (Psalms 107:2). It is time to begin to say what the word says about you; it is time to confess the promises of God for you and your family. Don’t keep silent!
How about declaring every morning as you wake up: “This is the day the LORD has made; We will rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:24); “I shall not die, but live, And declare the works of the LORD.” (Psalm 118:17); “And the Lord will deliver me from every evil work and preserve me for His heavenly kingdom. To Him be glory forever and ever. Amen!” (2 Timothy 4:18). These are powerful scriptures that can insulate our hearts from fear and reinforce our divine immunity against this plague.
DON’T FEAR THEIR FEAR
“For the LORD spake thus to me with a strong hand, and instructed me that I should not walk in the way of this people, saying, 12 Say ye not, A confederacy, to all them to whom this people shall say, A confederacy; neither fear ye their fear, nor be afraid. 13 Sanctify the LORD of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. 14 And he shall be for a sanctuary…” (Isaiah 8:11-14). We are not to ‘fear their fear.’ We are not even to preoccupy ourselves with all the conspiracy theories concerning Covid-19! There must be a difference between the disposition of the Believers and non-Believers in a time of crisis.
God is the One we should rather fear, not coronavirus or anything else. Let us observe all the precautionary measures and obey the regulations put in place by the health authorities, but let’s know that our ultimate deliverance and safety is in the Lord. “The horse is prepared against the day of battle:but safety is of the LORD.” (Proverbs 21:31).
The fear of the Lord begins with a recognition that He is watching over us. “For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him…” (2 Chronicles 16:9a). God is watching you wherever you are. He sees what you are doing in this time of separation from church and brethren. The period of ‘social distancing’ should not also mean spiritual distancing from God!
We should not abandon our spiritual disciplines – studying the Bible, personal and family devotion, and reaching out to people by phone and via the social media. People need hope now than ever before. Fear has led many people into confusion and depression, we need to bring hope to them.
Staying away from church does not mean that we should abandon our commitment to the work of God. No matter what happens, the work of God must go on, the kingdom of God must match on. This is also the time for us to show care to those who are in need. Times like this should bring out the ‘milk of human kindness’ from Believers.
SAFE IN THE LORD
There is a promise for those who trust Him: “He will keep you safe.” (Isaiah 8:14a NLT). That is what a sanctuary is, a refuge, a place of safety. In times like this, we should not run to anywhere else but God. Our attitude to the pandemic must be different from people who don’t have hope. Let us not allow fear to rule our hearts. Rather, we should rest assured that “The LORD of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge. (Psalms 46:11). Selah means “pause, and calmly think of that!” That is what we should be doing during this lockdown period.