“Do not be afraid, for I am with you.
Hear Me saying, “Peace, be still,” to your restless heart.
No matter what happens, I will never leave you or forsake you.
Let this assurance soak into your mind and heart until you
overflow with Joy.”
From Jesus Calling, April 20
“US coronavirus outbreak sees its deadliest day yet.”
“Worldwide COVID-19 numbers are growing at unprecedented rates.”
“The economy may take years to recover.”
Over the past month, we have heard countless statements like these about the coronavirus. We pray for the day this virus will be a distant memory. But in the months and years to come, we will face many other challenging moments, when it feels like the easiest path to take would be to succumb to fear
Fear is contagious. But so is faith.
Fear is contagious. But so is faith, so is hope, and so is love.
It’s much easier to talk about how this virus is defeating us than it is to talk about how we can defeat it, but in this season, and in every season, we are all better off focusing on walking in faith guided by wisdom than allowing ourselves to be consumed by fear.
The Word of God tells us that this is how God intends us to live:
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear,
but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”
(2 Timothy 1:7 NKJV)
As followers of Jesus, this verse is so inspiring, but is often hard to live out. Allow me to share a story from Mark 4:35–41 where I believe Jesus gives us some advice about this very thing.
Teacher, don’t you care?
Jesus had finished teaching for the day, and He went out on a boat with His disciples to escape the crowds. They were casually floating, and Jesus moved to the rear of the boat to take a nap. That’s when a storm popped up out of nowhere.
The Bible makes it clear that this was a severe storm simply by the reaction of these men. These were people who regularly sailed and were used to rough seas, but they were so panicked, they rushed down to awaken Jesus and asked this profound question:
“Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” (v. 38)
Not exactly a normal wake-up call! Imagine those being the first words you hear when you’re jostled awake. I don’t take well to my kids being too loud on a Saturday morning in the other room, so I can’t say I would have been as calm as Jesus was when awakened in the boat!
He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!”
Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. (v. 39)
Jesus is in control.
What Jesus’ reaction is really communicating is that He already knows about the storm. He is in the boat, and He can feel the water. There is no reason to panic. The same truth applies to the “storms” that you and I go through in our lives. Jesus is with you there too. He is aware and in control.
Once Jesus has miraculously stopped the storm, He has a question for those who, moments ago, were fearing for their lives:
He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid?
Do you still have no faith?” (v. 40)
The question Jesus asks His followers—and the one I believe He is asking us today as we battle the physical, economic, and social challenges presented by the coronavirus—is not “what’s happening?”. God already knows every storm you are facing. He is asking why we are afraid. How can we be afraid of this virus, this job loss, this pain, this anything when we have seen all God has done for us in the past?
When the fallout from this virus is over, we will face other challenges. Broken relationships. Battles against addiction. Financial hardship. Parenting difficulties. Loss of loved ones. And so much more.
Your focus determines your peace.
A life in Christ isn’t absent of storms. Choosing to give your life to Jesus is not a guarantee of an easy life with freedom from difficulty. When you follow Jesus , you’re committing to stick it out, even if you encounter worry or pain along the way. It’s not about what God can do for you now, but what God has already done for you. It’s a declaration where you say to God, “I will walk through hell with You, because You are good and I am Yours.”
I want to leave you with one final thought: your focus determines your peace. Whatever you choose to focus on will be magnified in your life. Do not be surprised when the only thing you watch is news about the virus and you feel afraid. Do not be surprised when you eat tons of crab rangoon and begin to grow love handles. Do not be surprised when you surround yourself with negative people and get depressed. When you feed your heart, mind, and body something, that something will affect you.
But we don’t have to focus on and be consumed by the trouble around us! God is more than a conqueror, and we can choose to declare that even if _____ happens, we will trust God. Here’s a suggestion that I believe will help you: read every verse in the Bible about fear, and let that truth magnify in your life. Our confidence that God is in control is what will sustain our internal peace.
Walk in confidence.
There is no doubt in my mind that if the disciples had faced another storm the next day, they would have faced it with complete confidence that they were going to be fine because they had seen Jesus come through for them in the previous storm.
Do not live in fear. Walk in wisdom and confidence, knowing what God has done for you means that your hopes and dreams are not over! Sometimes wise people get sick, but fearful people continually live in sickness. We should not live in ignorance of the coronavirus or what we are facing as a nation, but we can walk in confidence knowing that God is in control and is in this storm right alongside us!
“Do not fear what this day, or any day, may bring your way.
Concentrate on trusting Me and on doing what needs to be done.
Relax in My sovereignty, remembering that I go before you,
as well as with you, into each day.”
From Jesus Calling, May 7
Joshua Gagnon is the founding and lead pastor of Next Level Church, regularly recognized as one of the fastest growing churches in America. He is known for his uniquely authentic communication style that makes the hope found in Jesus relevant to people of every background. His latest book, It’s Not Over, released in February 2020. He and his wife, Jennifer, raise their two sons in New Hampshire.