Runyan: Fearful days bring opportunities
March 25, 2020
Years ago, there was a popular bumper sticker that you were likely to see on pickup trucks driven by young men. It simply said, “No Fear!”
One pastor responded with this: “Stick around, kid. We can teach you.”
The world God made has a marvelous power to instruct us in the ways of fear. In fact, learning to fear the right stuff is part of learning to live successfully. The man who truly has no fear is most likely a psychopath, who is headed for a more abrupt end than he imagines.
I have a friend who was recently diagnosed with stage four cancer. I have another who is hustling to keep his house through a period of unemployment, so that he can keep his daughter. Now, of course, here comes COVID-19, and you only need to observe the parking lots at local stores to see people scrambling, trying to figure out the best way forward.
My wife told me she thinks one of the big things COVID-19 has done is shatter the illusion of control for many people. People are dealing with the fact that they were never really in control.
That can be a jarring realization, but sometimes (let’s be honest) we need to be jarred. It gives us an opportunity to take a breath and reset ourselves.
We have a moment, right now, to decide what to do with our fear. The natural reaction is to act like sailors in a storm: Batten down the hatches. Pull everything important closer, and take care of your own.
I think the biblical answer, unsurprisingly, is 180 degrees from that. It comes in two simple steps.
First, heed all the multiplied invitations in the Bible to “fear God” alone. That’s an interesting phrase, “fear God.” A careful look at how it is used will show that it means trusting him; believing his promises; and doing his will when no one is watching.
This is the sort of godly fear Jesus encouraged when he said, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (Matthew 6:25-26)
Secondly, once we’ve chosen the correct source and object of our fear, this will free us up, to open our own hands. We can afford to release our white-knuckled death grip on what we thought before was going to save us. We can actually keep God’s commandments and love our neighbors. We can see needs and work to meet them, because we know our own needs are being handled by one greater than ourselves.
Some see a crisis as a business opportunity. Tyrants see it as a means of amassing power. But if our fear is well-directed, we can see tough times providing opportunities to demonstrate God’s love.
Gordan Runyan is the pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Tucumcari. Contact him at: