Fear and Idols
It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine...
The funny thing about fear, is that it can really sneak up on you. As this global pandemic started, I felt completely fine. I wasn’t scared, even if everything in the world ended, I was confident in where I was going. The classic R.E.M. song kept running through my head, and I felt fine. I felt connected to God and my faith was strong. Then about two weeks into the US pandemic I found out that someone we knew was fighting for his life in a hospital with the virus, and all of the sudden I no longer felt fine. This person was a strong healthy man, he was someone you never would have expected to be affected by Coronavirus. He was someone who reminded me a lot of my husband. We watched as his wife clung to every update she got from the doctors, unable to be with him. As I followed the updates, I grew more and more fearful. I had completely come to terms with me dying, or even all of us dying, but I hadn’t really come to terms with my husband dying. My husband has always been the strong one. Through years of my health battles, through cancer, through a broken back, surgeries, and all that I have been through, he was strong and healthy. It seemed I had unknowingly placed my husband’s ability to overcome and take care of me, over God’s ability to take care of me, and this pandemic proved that there was no promise of him being able to do that, and I could easily loose him.
This realization shook me, and it exposed something that had been lying dormant for a long time. It was an idol; one I didn’t even realize I had been harboring. For the last several years, I have had to come to terms with my own mortality, and I surrendered the idea that my life was more important to me than my relationship with God. It was not an easy idol to give up, but I had. What I learned through that process is that fear is great at exposing what I am secretly idolizing. I think this is true for all of us. I believe what we have the greatest fear of losing, is likely what we worship most. I think that fear stands in conflict with trust. If you are fearful, it is signaling that there is part of you that does not fully trust God.
While I doubted that this really was the end of the world, it had certainly challenged my security and trust, it exposed fears in me that proved that I didn’t fully trust God. Through this process I was reminded that the things we are most scared of losing are our idols, the things we put before God. I believe this is true whether you are a non-believer or a believer.
For many non-believers they have a real fear of death and life after death. They have put everything before God, because He isn’t something they prioritize or even believe in. When you put everything before God, then you have to count on your everything and when it starts falling apart things get very scary, especially when it’s your life at risk. I would suggest that if you are a non-believer to give yourself time and space to sit with your fear and ask yourself if you are okay if you are right, and if you are okay if you are wrong. There are so many real risks at stake for you. Allow your fear to guide you to what is more, and what is true, and what is Holy.
For believers, your fear is very similar, and it can be a really fantastic tool to help expose the things you hold above God. I believe that when we are fearing something, it means that we are not able to trust God completely with those things. One of the most common reasons that we are not able to trust is because we have placed our things above God. You cannot trust God to protect you from the things that you are holding above Him. I think of things like our kids, our spouse, our job, our house, you name it, and we can place it above God. These things can become more subtle the more you surrender and grow in your relationship with God, but most likely we all have something in this category. But I also know that the closer you get to God, the more He will work with you to expose these things when you are paying attention. One way that you can recognize them is by tuning into your fear to see if there are things that you are idolizing. I have spent many years working to eradicate idols in my life, and every time I think I really have a handle on it, God pulls back another layer of my heart and I can see more clearly what I am placing over my relationship with Him. Fear has been a great tool for me.
If you are terrified of losing your life in this outbreak, perhaps you have put your health, or the influence you have in this world, over God and what is next for you. It is normal to not want to get sick, and to be cautious, but when the caution turns into paranoia, and debilitating fear, there is a good chance you need to examine those fears and look for idols.
We all have fear pop up from time to time, but what you do with that fear is really important. As you feel fearful, take that fear to God. Ask Him to expose areas you are not able to trust Him with. Ask Him to comfort the hard things that are out of your control. Spend time leaning into Him and take time to expose idols you have placed above God. A question I often hear from God is, “If I take away ___________ would you still love me?” This question is a great one to ask yourself to determine if God is your God, or if the things you are most fearful of losing are your god. Ask yourself if there is anything that you could lose that would affect your relationship with Him, and chances are, if there is, those are really your god.
I would encourage you, during this time of stress and fear, to not squander the opportunity to expose the idols in your life. Spend some time reflecting on what you are most stressed about, to help you expose the things that you may unknowingly be putting before God. Take your time to tear down those idols, so that you are fully able to trust Him, and surrender fear. I assure you; it will be worth the sacrifice in moving you forward in your faith. Chances are if you can get to a place of surrender, you can face even the end of the world and still feel fine.