So much has happened in the last few months, that I really haven’t known how to respond. I have felt like a boxer that is taking body blow after body blow to the point where I’m off balance and can’t swing back.
We have a worldwide pandemic doing damage to our people and our economy. We have had egregious examples of injustice in which race was the dominant motivator. We have criminals that use the distraction of legitimate protests as a cover for their looting operations. We have politicians that use these events to promote the political agenda of their party rather than do the best thing for the people they govern. We have ample evidence that we live in a fallen, broken world.
So how do we catch our collective breath and determine a healthy path forward? How do we stay sane and steady when seemingly the entire society is crumbling to pieces around us?
To find an example of how to respond, I am reminded of the opening chapter of the Book of Joshua. In that chapter, Joshua is commanded by God to “be strong and courageous.”
Perhaps it would be helpful to set the context in which this command was given.
Since leaving Egypt, the Israelites have proved themselves to be (like us) stubborn people that time after time went wrong. They so provoked Moses that he responded out of anger and disobeyed God’s command, thus disqualifying himself from leading the people into the promised land.
After the death of Moses, Joshua is tasked with leading this bunch. He assumes command just before they cross into the promised land, knowing that the current inhabitants will fight to keep them out.
They can’t retreat, they can’t stay where they are, and to move ahead will require many battles and a lot of difficulties. From a human perspective, the outcome of this adventure was not certain. He took over in the midst of an unstable, difficult situation.
So here we are in 2020. We can’t just pretend that the COVID-19 virus isn’t a problem. We can’t pretend that racial injustice has not taken place. We can’t pretend that our politicians have not given us ample evidence of self-interested, short-sighted behavior. We can’t just go back to what we think were better days.
Then what can we do? How should Christians respond to all of this?
I offer to you (and to myself) the commands in Joshua 1 that I alluded to earlier. In verses 6, 7, and 9 of Joshua 1, God commands Joshua to “be strong and courageous.” In Verse 7 he even tells him to be “very courageous.”
The question is how can we be courageous when we don’t really feel that way?
It has been often pointed out that courage is not the absence of fear but choosing to do the right thing despite the fear. But this begs the question of how can we overcome our fear and do the right thing?
For me, it comes down to one key question. Did Jesus actually rise from the dead? If he did, then his resurrection changes everything.
The fact that Jesus rose from the dead, makes the promises made to us believable. Death no longer needs to be feared as the ultimate enemy. If death is not to be feared, then we should also be able to face down the fear of contracting the current coronavirus. We no longer have to fear societal breakdown and the chaos that seems to surround us. We can choose to respond to the challenges in a responsible way but without fear.
Jesus said to one of the criminals that was being crucified next to him, “today you will be with me in Paradise.” That promise should provide enough hope to get us through the most difficult time.
Do I believe that Jesus can do that for me?
If I claim to believe it, that belief should provide the courage to live that way. By acting with courage, I prove John’s statement in 1 John 4:18 that ”perfect love casts out fear.” Do I trust in the love of God as demonstrated in Christ?
We are loved, therefore we have the means of overcoming our fear so that we can be strong and very courageous.
We can choose to allow God’s love to overcome our fear.