While running this afternoon, a song came on that I had not heard in quite a while: Coldplay’s Life in Technicolor, II. Ten years ago, I listened to this song on repeat. In a funny way, it helped me process my feelings in the months leading up to and away from the birth of my first child, Jackson. One particular line stuck with me, “Oh love, don’t let me go…” I thought to myself if I could just love Jack Jack, as we called him back then, with a perfect love, all would be well.
I kept telling myself that because I was full of fear. If I could only love perfectly, I thought to myself, then all would be well.
Today’s news brings fear born of a much different source but still fear. Regardless of whether we’re a skeptic of this pandemic, totally fearful and bunkered down at home, or somewhere in between, we know fear characterizes our life together as we move through this uncertain time. A friend the other day texted me as we were discussing the news saying that we are in “uncharted waters.” Indeed.
And yet, in some ways these are waters we know well. At different moments in our lives, we have all experienced fear. When fear strikes, it pulls on us, demanding that we must find some measure of control or else we will succumb into total and sheer panic. We must find some control or else.
That’s what I felt in 2010 as I prepared to become a father. I was only beginning to reawaken to faith but, somehow, the line, “Oh love, don’t let me go,” turned itself into a prayer. And as I prayed it, over and over again, I heard the Holy Spirit speak to me that, as long as God’s love lived in me, I would love Jackson with as perfect a love as is possible.
And that is where our hearts and minds must go in these uncertain days, to the love of God. It may sound odd, to speak of love in the midst of a time of fear, but let us be mindful that “perfect love casts out fear.” (1 John 4:18) God’s love will usher away our fear. And where we are dwelling in the midst of God’s love, we will cause others to have the confidence that God is with us, God is for us, God is still sovereign, even over a disease over which no one on this earth has control.
Paul said to a church living in much fear, “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies.” (2 Corinthians 4:8-10) We can be a powerful witness to the sovereignty, to the power of Christ in our midst if we will dwell in love, if we will choose to not fear but, instead, say to God that powerful prayer of the ages, “thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
This includes not fearing death. That is, perhaps, the thing that creates the greatest fear during this pandemic: death of ourselves or the deaths of our loved ones. I know at times I greatly fear my own death, especially prematurely, because I worry for Dana, Jackson, and Carter. I feel that typical desire to protect and provide as a husband and father. But then I hear the words that I speak at every funeral usher over me; a reminder of the faith we hold:
“In the midst of life, we are in death, from whom can we seek help? Our help is from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth….Dying Christ destroyed our death. Rising Christ restored our life. Christ will come again.”
Death comes to us all. We are all marching toward our inevitable demise, but God holds our lives and our deaths in the palm of his hand. God will provide for those we leave behind and we will know the fullness of the love of God through death; death which is, in fact, the ultimate healing of our lives as it ushers us into our true home, God’s infinite love.
Let us, then, live into the words of C.S. Lewis, writing during a time of fear and panic over an attack by atomic bomb, “If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things–praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts [maybe via the internet in this case!]–not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that [indeed!]) but they need not dominate our minds.”
In other words, we do have one way in which we can exert control: we can choose to live in fear or to live in love. To do the latter is to simply draw into our faith. Practice those spiritual disciplines that are good for you. In the car, sing with worship music instead of consuming news. When fear strikes, pray. Pray the Psalms, just as we’ve been talking about all year, for many of them speak to fear.
And, with the help of modern technology, reach out to people in your life and check on them. Call them, text them, Facebook them, to let them know you’re thinking about them, praying for them, and praying for us all. We don’t have to face this alone even if we end up bunkered down in our homes. We still have the gift of each other’s presence through which we experience the love of God. One of the best ways to move from fear to love is to love others.
Hear, in closing, the words of the apostle Paul who did not fear death and went willingly to his execution, stating to the church in the city of his death, “What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else?…No, in all these things we are more than conquerers through him who loved us.” (Romans 8:31-32, 37)
“Oh love, don’t let us go.” Indeed, God’s love will not. Draw close and know the “peace [of Christ] that passes all understanding guarding your hearts and minds.” (Philippians 4:7)