In high school, timed writings were one of my least favorite assignments. Every few weeks, every year, my fellow classmates and I were forced to sit at a desk and write a decent essay in 30 minutes based on a prompt we had never before seen. Ordinarily, I did fine on the timed writings; however, in the spring of my junior year, I received the worst grade on an assignment I have ever received.
While nothing seemed to worry me in high school, anxiety and fear welled within me every time I thought about that awful grade. My anxiety revealed that I had placed an unbiblical emphasis on my academic achievements and harbored an insufficient view of God. If a single bad grade was capable of sending me into an emotional tailspin, then I staked my peace in too fickle of an object—my peace was only as powerful as my last assignment grade. If a single bad grade was capable of producing anxiety and fear, then somewhere deep within my soul I succumbed to a belief that God’s infinite power and goodness were no match for my academic inadequacy—that God was somehow incapable of utilizing my bad grade for His glory.
Our anxieties reveal the composition of our hearts. Anxiety about a relationship reveals an attempt to obtain peace from the status quo. Anxiety about a career reveals a belief that God is not powerful enough to carry you through unemployment, financial instability, or moments in which you are passed over for a promotion. In my high school example, I raised academics to a position it was never intended to inhabit and lowered God from His post as the all-powerful, all-knowing, wholly good Creator to a lower position in my heart; in that moment, my paper grade was bigger than God.
In this moment, COVID-19 is bigger than God. The virus is not bigger than God in actuality, but certainly so in perception. When rationality and peace are replaced by panic and anxiety, an unbiblical view of the disease has permeated society. Too many people have staked their peace on their health, a great stock market, and the availability of basic necessities at local stores, which means too many people have a view of God that is substantially too small.
In Philippians 4:6-7, God commands us to “not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” The language is clear—there is nothing on earth that should produce within us crippling anxiety. Worries are not a natural part of the Christian life. When we are overwhelmed with fear, we are underwhelmed with the greatness of God. Conversely, when we stop and reflect on the power and authority of God—His sovereignty over all things—there is nothing on this planet capable of inducing panic.
This does not mean we need to disregard the advice of medical experts or belittle the potential devastation of which a disease like COVID-19 is capable; however, when rationality and levelheadedness are replaced by panic and anxiety, we have crossed the line between a healthy respect for the disease and a belief that God’s power is insufficient to ultimately use even something as horrible as a virus for His glory.
God is bigger than any disease; our peace should not rely on our physical health. God is bigger than any stock exchange; our peace should not rely on our portfolio. God is bigger than any societal norm; our peace should not rely on the availability of toilet paper or the operating hours of a local business.
Be safe. Take measures to protect yourself from COVID-19. But do not allow a disease that will eventually become a tiny blip in world history to overwhelm your heart and mind, producing fear and anxiety. Do not elevate the virus in your heart to a position that insinuates it is more powerful than the God who created all things. Use this moment in time to recognize the condition of your heart. From what do you seek peace? Do you seek peace from something as fickle as your health or societal norms? Or do you seek peace from the One who created all things, is sovereign over all things, is infinitely good, and who wants to give you a peace that passes all understanding? Be anxious about nothing; trust in God.