Germs, disease, viruses and bacteria breed fear that threatens human community life. Whenever there is some new outbreak, society can go into meltdown. Often the media seem skewed towards the delivery of bad news as it creates more reaction, sells more newspapers and improves viewing figures. When pestilence of any kind stalks the streets, you can be sure that a journalist is not far away. All of this feeds the fear of the crowd, leading to mass insecurity, selfish bulk buying and a breakdown of community interaction.
- ‘There is a type of snobbish, pompous journalist who thinks that the only news that has any validity is war, famine, pestilence or politics. I don't come from that school’ – Piers Morgan
- ‘Headlines, in a way, are what mislead you because bad news is a headline, and gradual improvement is not’ – Bill Gates
- ‘Bad news travels at the speed of light; good news travels like molasses’ – Tracy Morgan
- ‘Well-reported news is a public good; bad news is bad for everyone’ – Jill Lepore
If you follow Christ, hear what he says: ‘I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves’ – Matthew 10:16. Here you find a perplexing mixture of wisdom with naiveté and assurance with vulnerability! Jesus Christ is the bearer of Good News who prepares us for every bit of bad news.
- ‘Therefore put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand’ – Ephesians 6:13
- ‘I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world’ – John 16:33
- ‘Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ’ – Ephesians 5:15-20
Back in the Old Testament, Moses warned Pharaoh that he should set God’s people free or there would be plagues. As we know, it took ten plagues of varying severity involving lice, frogs, flies and pestilence before Pharaoh released the Israelites. Sadly, grumbling began amongst this freed people and they suffered their own plague of snakes but they were given a means of deliverance that was a prefiguring of the cross: ‘The Lord said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, they lived’ – Numbers 20:8-9
There is much in the New Testament about the times we are living through now. Christians have been told about these ‘Last Days’ but it’s good to be reminded!
- ‘Watch out that you are not deceived. For many will come in my name, claiming, “I am he,” and, “The time is near.” Do not follow them. When you hear of wars and uprisings, do not be frightened. These things must happen first, but the end will not come right away ... Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven ... There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken’ – Luke 21:8-11, 25-26
- ‘But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power’ – 2 Timothy 3:1-5
Knowing these things should prepare us, help us with our priorities and build faith that overcomes fear. What we know is that there will be more unsettling times before the Lord’s return and a completely new order of things begins. Jesus Christ came with the Good News of Jubilee that was prophesied 750 years earlier (Isaiah 61), bringing us healing as we call on him and ultimately the final healing every human being needs described in 1 Corinthians 15 and Revelation.
- ‘But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed’ – Isaiah 53:5
- ‘Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits— who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s’ – Psalm 103:1-5
When tempted to fear, find strength from Psalm 46:
- ‘God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging ... The Lord Almighty is with us’
If still feeling anxious, then read Psalm 91 and you will see how the Lord deals with the pestilence that stalks:
- ‘Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday. A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. You will only observe with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked. If you say, “The Lord is my refuge, “and you make the Most High your dwelling, no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent. For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. You will tread on the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent. “Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honour him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.”’
Jesus calls us to watch and pray.
TAGS – sickness, end of the world, Christ’s return, final judgement