There is a certain pride I feel when I see the way that those who work in the voluntary sector and in faith organisations respond to a crisis like that which we are facing. It is not a wrong, boastful pride but a ‘settled rightness’ that makes me want to tell others the good news of service to humankind.
Yet, if we are honest it has been hard in recent times to hold fear at bay. And, boy, does fear make us do strange things – how are you doing for toilet roll? If it’s not panic buying, it may be road rage – we must be able to recognise the signs of strain in those around us coming out in different ways. It is tough for kids as well. All of us in close contact with them need to recognise that they can sense tension, even if they don’t understand what is happening. We need to give each other the benefit of the doubt – be aware that the emotions being displayed perhaps do not reflect the root emotion. Anger may well be an outworking of fear.
Do be careful of fake news, rumour and drama – so limit your exposure to news programmes, news feeds and social media. When they don’t have anything new to report they will speculate. That is not always good for our mental health.
So what is the antidote to fear? It seems fair for us to be on edge and worried given the circumstances. We cannot change the facts. Surely then the answer to fear is courage! Well, the Bible says;
Perfect love casts out all fear1 John 4:18
So, then, is the answer to fear, love? Strange, isn’t it? The natural reaction to fear is to fight – this may well look like bravery or courage, but fear remains underlying. However, love takes the sting out of fear. Fear separates whilst love brings us together. Try it! The next time you’re feeling fearful, try doing something loving instead. Call someone, serve your housemates, reach out and don’t retract.
When ‘love’ is written in the Bible, the original Greek text uses the word ‘agape’ which we struggle to translate into English. There are several kinds of love. For example, there is brotherly mutual love; there is Eros – love-related sexual desire; and ‘agape’ love which implies giving with no expectation of return. In today’s society we have translated this love to ‘charity’. It is a divine love, costly and precious, selfless and sacrificial.
There will be plenty of opportunities for us to be selfless and to put the needs and desires of others before ourselves. Right in the midst of the fearful situation is the means to overcome that fear – practising love.