Fear Is Contagious, But So Is Faith

Photo by Victor Bezrukov
Wikimedia Commons CC BY-2.0

There are a lot of things in this world that are contagious. Certain viruses and diseases come to mind, as do laughter and yawning.

There have even been cases of contagious dancing, such as the “dance epidemic” of 1518 in Strasbourg.

But did you know that fear is also contagious?

A friend of mine was telling me how she organized a backyard sleepover in a tent for her daughter and some friends a few years ago. The children were assured that the parents would be with them in the tent all night long.

The kids were excited about this adventure, and all seemed to go well at first. Eventually, however, one little girl became afraid of the dark. It didn’t take long for another girl to become fearful as well. Pretty soon the whole thing had to be called off, despite the parents’ promises that they wouldn’t leave the children outside alone in the dark.

The other kids had “caught” the fearful attitude of the first child.

Scripture recognizes how destructive fear can be when it contaminates a whole group.

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Good Fear Vs. Bad Fear

A tarantula, one of the most feared spiders
Photo by WikiImages on Pixabay

Has this pandemic made you fearful? Are you afraid that you or your loved ones might catch the COVID-19 virus? Are you nervous about even going out in public? Afraid that life will never be quite the same again?

For many of us, the coronavirus crisis has only added to our list of things to fear. As if we didn’t already have enough things to be afraid of!

There are fears common to many of us, such as fear of spiders or snakes, fear of public speaking or fear of falling.

Then there are the more unusual phobias, such as fear of clocks or clowns, balloons or buttons, and even beards. (Full marks to you if you know that triskaidekaphobia means fear of the number thirteen.)

There’s no end of things to be afraid of in this world. But is fear always bad?

No. God gave us the emotion of fear: it’s there to save us from danger.

But we need to differentiate between good fear and bad fear.

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Living in a Snow Globe

Publicdomainpictures.net

Did you have a snow globe as a child?

I did. I loved taking it in my hand and shaking it to see the sparkly fake snow whip up into a blizzard around the little figures inside. I knew that the snowstorm was limited in scope, however, and would soon settle down. I had the globe in the palm of my hand, after all, and governed events inside.

But imagine the snow globe from the perspective of the tiny “people” inside it. From their vantage point, all they can see is whirling whiteness that seems to have no end. They’re blinded to the fact that outside their little bubble, there’s no storm at all: everything is calm and under control.

Life here on earth can be a bit like living inside a snow globe, can’t it?

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Some Things Never Change

Photo by mabi2000 on Flickr CC BY-SA-2.0

During this worldwide crisis, many of us are concerned about the changes that are being wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic. We wonder what the world will look like once we emerge from the lockdowns.

Will life truly return to the way it was before? Will there be thousands of small businesses that will never reopen? Will we ever be able to gather in large crowds like we did in the past? Will the way we “do life” have changed permanently because of this pandemic?

It’s at times like these that we need something that never changes, much like conifers. During the winter, when deciduous trees are bare, I’m thankful for coniferous trees. These loyal friends, like the spruces, pines and firs, still have their mantle of green, which they’ll keep year-round. These silent sentinels might not be flashy, but we can count on them not to change.

God’s character is like that, too.

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Comfort Food for the Soul

Are you reaching for comfort food during the pandemic?
Photo of Supreme Pizza by Wikipedia, Public Domain

As hundreds of millions of us are shut in our homes, nervously monitoring the news for the latest updates on the coronavirus, we’re also dealing with an unexpected side effect of this pandemic:

Many of us are gaining weight as we turn to comfort foods to calm us.

This is perfectly understandable. We’re in a global crisis right now, with the news getting worse day by day in some countries. Who would blame us for reaching for cookies, ice cream, fried foods or nostalgic casseroles to console us, even if they can only do so temporarily?

But is there a more lasting source of comfort, preferably one that’s low in fat and calories?

Yes, there is…

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Shelter in the Best Place

An Impregnable Fortress: Bodiam Castle in East Sussex, England
Photo by Ryan Lea on Flickr CC BY-2.0

During the past week hundreds of millions of people around the globe have been told to “shelter in place,” a phrase normally reserved for natural disasters or violent attacks. In today’s context, it means to stay at home for a certain length of time to help prevent the further spread of COVID-19.

Good advice. But what if it’s your heart that needs shelter? Where can you go when you need protection from emotional distress?

The Bible speaks of a shelter that believers can turn to when events threaten to overwhelm us:

The arms of our loving God.

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Your Finest Hour

Winston Churchill, British Prime Minister during World War II
Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain

Thanks to COVID-19, we’re living in conditions that are almost unprecedented for many of us. Large swathes of the globe are living under the types of restrictions that many countries haven’t seen since the Second World War.

Students of history might be seeing additional parallels between the current pandemic and conditions during World War II. They might be calling to mind right now Winston Churchill’s famous line from a speech he delivered to the UK House of Commons in June of 1940, shortly after he became Prime Minister:

“Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say: ‘This was their finest hour.’ ”

Amid the news reports of hoarding and panic-buying, there are also some uplifting examples of people rising to the occasion and showing care and kindness to others.

Allow me to share with you some accounts of what may be some people’s “finest hour”:

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Volatility Index of Your Heart

Feel like pressing the panic button?
Photo from Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA-2.0

If you follow the stock market, you might be familiar with something called the Volatility Index. Sometimes called the “fear index,” it gauges the market’s anxiety level.

When investors are fearful and markets are in turmoil, the volatility index spikes higher. Now happens to be one of those times, thanks to fears over the impact of the coronavirus.

It made me wonder, do our hearts have a “volatility index” of their own?

And if they do, what can we do to keep our emotions on an even keel, when our circumstances might give us every reason to panic? How can we find peace even in the midst of turmoil?

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2020: Here Be Dragons?

Map of Norwegian coast, 1539. Public Domain.

Have you ever seen antique maps with the ominous words, “Here Be Dragons” written across the uncharted regions, or with drawings of sea monsters lying in wait in the menacing oceans?

Heading into a new year, do you feel like you’re entering into unmapped territory in your own life? Do you worry there may be “dragons” lurking ahead for you in 2020?

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