Do not fear the terror of night,
nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
nor the plague that destroys at noonday.
- Psalm 91:5-6
The Bible is always telling us not to be afraid. And that’s because there’s so much real stuff to be afraid of. Like now, as shelves empty, markets tank, leaders dither, and old people die in a day. Life is scary enough in ordinary times. It’s much scarier now. So the Bible exhorts us again, “Don’t be afraid!”
And yet people are. Even Bible-believing people. Some are downright terrified, hoarding enough toilet paper to last till 2039. And like clockwork in our nasty age, they get roundly mocked on social media, called out as irrational, impervious to scientific information, bad, stupid, and wrong.
Maybe you’re heeding both the Bible and good scientific information. Maybe you’re feeling reassured and calm. Maybe you’re side-eyeing the panicky, too. But here’s the thing: Fear is fear, and human beings are what we are. All of us by nature are vulnerable and exposed.
So admit it—aren’t you also just a little bit afraid? No matter how much you know, or how often you wash, don’t you also feel foreboding? I know I do. A drastic spike in the infection rate could find me searching for a case of Charmin, too.
It would be great if we were all at our rational best right now. But we’re not. Optimal if we all rose brilliantly to this occasion. But we won’t. So the next best thing is to dismount our high horses, summon some empathy from that quavering place inside us where we too feel afraid, cut each other some slack, and just be kind.
If you can’t make us unafraid, O God, at least make our fears a bridge to others, an empathetic tie that binds.
Mary Luti is a long time seminary educator and pastor, author of Teresa of Avila’s Way and numerous articles, and founding member of The Daughters of Abraham, a national network of interfaith women’s book groups.