The friendly snowman in my photo reminds us all to “Stay Safe”. This has become one of the mantras of our time. For many, the COVID-19 virus is the lurking enemy of their nightmares, exposure to the virus is their worst fear, and a vaccine has become their only hope of salvation.
One of the devil’s classic strategies for keeping humans locked into a cycle of endless strife is to get them fighting the wrong enemy. In the early years of our marriage, Marion and I had our share of marital discord. For a time there seemed to be no way out of this cycle. Thankfully, those years are long gone. We have learned to live in harmony with each other.
One of the keys to peace was the insight that our marriage partner was not the real enemy. It was our own pride, selfishness and self-will that lay at the root of almost every conflict.
I don’t want to get COVID-19 any more than you do. But I am more concerned about the impact of fear-dominated thinking than about the impact of the virus itself.
No-one wants to suffer needlessly. Avoidance of suffering is a basic survival instinct, and the fear of suffering and death holds great power for many. Yet the New Testament depicts this fear as a form of slavery, and holds out for us the prospect of a life that is no longer ruled by this fear. Jesus willingly entered into suffering to set humanity free. He overcame the fear of death by looking to the One who could save him from death.
Many see Jesus as an inspiring example. But are we willing not only to admire him but to embrace the cross as He did? His counsel to us who still battle the fear of suffering and death is simple. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for My sake, you will save it.
If we make it our highest goal to save our own life – to stay safe, to avoid pain, to avoid all risk, to somehow escape suffering and death- then there truly is no hope for us. That way is a dead end. We will have a miserable, self-focused, love-starved, fear-addicted life and die defeated, without hope. In the end we will lose our life and inherit eternal death.
If we want to live a life worth living, we must honestly reckon with our fear of death and then overcome that fear by entrusting our lives to the One who overcame death for us. Jesus, the Prince of Life, gives us the power to live by a different standard. Through Him we can overcome our fears, live in hope and continue to walk in love, choosing to serve others and hold out His light in the midst of the gathering darkness of this age.
I don’t especially want to get COVID-19, or pass it on to others. But I have a greater fear than the fear of getting COVID. I don’t want to waste my life. So I will take reasonable precautions to avoid getting sick, but my main focus will be on loving and serving the Lord, and loving and serving others in His name. That’s the only way to live a life that’s worth living – a life ruled by love, not fear – and stay safe for eternity. It’s the only safety that really counts.
Stay safe – stay close to Jesus.