I reached for the package of toilet paper moments before the other lady did. It had just been put out moments before, along with a few others which were a dollar more expensive. I grasped it, but handed it to her instead of placing it in my basket. She insisted that I take it, “you had it first.” So I took it while the stock boys laughed at me for being nice. Is this faith over fear in action? Perhaps. I’m not hoarding, just wanting to get what I might need while it’s available. Minutes later, I’m buying Sudafed for my mom’s grocery list and the pharmacy guy reminds me to keep an eye on my toilet paper so nobody will steal it. “This is crazy.” He says. “I know,” I agree. “I feel like I’m buying contraband.”
What to Know About Fear During COVID
Afraid of the Unknown
Why is everyone buying toilet paper? No one seems to know. Except that we’re afraid of the unknown. And preparing for the unknown as best as one knows how is a way of trying to remain in control. At least that’s the article I found while my restless mind led me to Google it at 3:00 am.
I can understand fear. I usually jump to the worst-case scenario when it comes to my health. I have a red spot behind my knee and my first thought is “blood clot.” When I was about thirteen, I was terrified of developing a brain tumor or other type of cancer, because it runs in the family. I still struggle with fear, but not like back then. Moments of panic and sleepless nights virtually behind me, I still like to know as much as I can about what may lie ahead.
I have learned that fear can be crippling. It can also cause us to do or not do things that have important consequences. It has caused me to hesitate in doing what I knew I should. And you and I are not alone in being afraid. Fear caused Elijah to wish to die, David to run for his life, and Peter to deny Jesus. So what is the answer?
God Will Meet Our Needs
“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” Throughout the centuries, people have found comfort in these words from Psalm 23. This beautiful piece of poetry reminds us that God will not leave our needs unmet. As the NIV puts it, “I lack nothing.” In this Psalm, King David also expresses emotions that we are dealing with today: primarily for fear of the unknown. Verse 4 specifically speaks to this. The Passion Translation words it this way: “Lord, even when your path takes me through the valley of deepest darkness, fear will never conquer me, for you already have! (emphasis mine). As people continue to fill up their pantries, the words from verse 5 stand out to me, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.” This is a reminder that God provides nourishment for us in times of need, not only for our bodies, but for our souls as well.
The prophet Isaiah also speaks to this in Isaiah 55:2. “Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare.” It is good to be prepared physically, but there is something more important. Are we ready to face whatever may come? I must confess that I for one am in need of some serious soul-searching. It is easy for prayer and Bible reading to become one more thing to check off a list instead a heartfelt act of devotion.
Dealing with Anxiety
As the days roll by, the numbers grow. Schools and churches are let out. I briefly wonder if this is to become a new normal. But the words of Psalm 23:4a calm me: “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil for You are with me.”
A few other thoughts that stand out to me come from social media. Apart from the toilet paper earrings, which provide a needed laugh, I remember two things. A counselor friend of mine posts that it has been found that people with severe anxiety are not going out and panic buying toilet paper. We (yes, I very much relate), are so used to dealing with anxiety on a daily basis that we can take this in stride more than some others can. I share this with a friend who also has anxiety and she agrees.
Help Those in Need
Secondly, and this is a heartbreaking, A cartoon meme shows a middle-aged couple with carts loaded down with items such as toilet paper and hand sanitizer, while an older gentleman stands staring at the empty shelves, holding an almost as empty basket. I read of many seeing exactly this in the stores: those who really need supplies not being able to get them. On a more encouraging note, though, I do hear a story of a lady who noticed an older couple standing outside of a grocery store afraid to go in. She volunteered to do their shopping for them.
Choose Faith over Fear
Fearful times can cause us to be selfish and hoard, but it can also motivate us to go out of our way to help others. As we allow God to conquer us and calm our fears, it becomes easier to choose faith over fear, selflessness over selfishness.
So as you reach for the hand sanitizer, remember to also reach up- for the hand of the One who knows the unknown. And reach out: for others and to others. We may have to quarantine but never isolate.
[bctt tweet="Fear can cause us to be selfish and hoard, but it can also motivate us to help others. As we allow God to conquer us and calm our fears, it becomes easier to choose faith over fear, selflessness over selfishness. #coronavirus #faith" username=""]
God is Our Comfort in Uncertainty
I go to the Wednesday night cell group, which is still on. We sing old hymns and talk about all the changes. It’s a very small group. But it’s comforting to not be isolated. We need each other. And so does the larger church, whether they continue to hold services or reach out virtually.
Only God knows what this pandemic means in the grand scheme of things, but there is one thing we can know: the same thing David knew centuries ago: “Surely Your goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” – Psalm 23: 6
Jessica Seale is a writer and a caregiver from rural Tennessee who wants to encourage others through her blog Beautifully Broken. It is a place where she shares what she’s learned about brokenness and inspires others to look at it differently.
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We love Jessica's reminder to have faith over the fear of the Coronavirus. God is our comfort in uncertainty.
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