Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Fear-Virus & Swine Flu

Fear is a lie. Most fear, that is. By far, most of the fears I've experienced in my life have never materialized. I've laid awake at night listening to it storm, fearful that a tornado would strike. It never has. I knew a few people who were afraid to check their mailboxes because they might have envelopes containing anthrax. Those envelopes never came. Y2K inserted the fear of global, chaotic breakdown into the hearts of many people. Their fear was real, while Y2K was a non-event.

Fear is the emotion we feel when facing an uncontrollable harmful event. That event can be either known or unknown. When confronted with the known, fear is reality-based. That is, one not only fears, but the fear corresponds to an actual threat that is either impending or now actualized. Most fears are fears of the unknown. Fears about, not the actual, but the possible. These events mostly never happen. The fear is real but irrational.

Today's fear is about getting swine flu. It's about one's own possible demise, as well as the demise of family and friends. Possible scenarios are of an "outbreak," an "epidemic," and a "pandemic." Now insert "global" before each of these terms. Add "unseeable," since we're talking about a virus. Mix in some "unstoppable" and legitimate concern morphs into panic.

Some people are just flat-out more fearful than others. Their hearts and minds are fertile soil for anxiety and worry, and they pass these things on to others. For some, maybe many, maybe most, the swine flu will come and go. But the fearful heart that so debilitates remains unless it is cured. Which is worse, getting the swine flu and most likely surviving, or living constantly with irrational fears that never materialize? While I pray we won't have a flu pandemic, every week I see a "fear pandemic" in the souls of people, and on occasion I've caught this virus myself. Fear breeds more fear like a virus. I think that, if we could cure the globally fearful hearts of people, we'd deal with the physical virus better. Panic shuts people down, distracting and hindering them from being proactively precautionary.

The cure for fear is trust. People who trust don't fear. Fear and trust are like oil and water: unmixable. Trust is a relationship. One trusts in someone or in something. One leans on someone or something. A trusting heart has a foundation; a fearful heart is adrift. I've met trusting people. They are not naive or gullible. If a tornado warning is given they take shelter. But they do not live filled with fears that never materialize, and in that sense they experience a freedom fearful people do not have. They don't put their trust in Twitter, but in God. Proverbs 3:5 says, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Don't lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him. And He will make your paths straight." Psalm 62:6 says, "He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken."

God doesn't want you to live in fear today. Wash your hands. Fold them and pray. Open them to heaven. Let God heal your fearful heart.