Tonya Huff sat in a Dallas bar watching the Cowboys beat the Seahawks.
A local reporter asked her if she was afraid.
“I can’t live in fear,” she said matter-of-factly. “That’s not living.”
To Tonya, this close game mattered more.
“If it’s already here,” she told him, “there’s nothing I can do.”
First one and now a second Ebola case in this country – identified here in Dallas – ratcheted up the media attention and consequent public awareness. There is concern but not much alarm – at least not yet and not professed. Ebola came from West Africa to the U.S. without warning or suspicion. The two Americans infected are health care workers – nurses who treated the original victim.
First ISIS stormed upon the international scene – unimaginably brutal, diabolical and deadly.
Now we’re seeing its medical equivalent. Ebola, as one writer described such virulent contagions, is “the monster in the microscope.”
It systematically attacks the organs. The victim drowns in his own blood.
There are various medical opinions and theories; a plethora of predictions and prescriptions. Typically, the politicians are pontificating and health care experts are counseling.
But no one knows.
Not for sure.
Ebola is the latest in a relentless line of developments that, when taken together, create in the human mind and heart a deepening sense of foreboding about the trajectory of the human condition.
“Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,” wrote the poet Yeats, “The blood-dimmed tide is loosed …”
While “things fall apart”, Americans – insulated from the suffering of the world as few people in history have been – try to remain hopeful.
West Africa – where some predict as many as 10,000 new Ebola cases weekly by December – is, after all, far away.
The black flag of ISIS will never fly on the White House lawn.
Our doctors – the most brilliant and advanced in the world – will find a vaccine and ultimately a cure for Ebola.
We’ll be OK.
After all, this is America, God’s “almost chosen nation”, as Lincoln memorably put it, and nothing truly bad could ever happen to this exceptional country. There’s some historical truth to that, notwithstanding liberal naysayers.
Yet the judgment of God makes no exceptions for national greatness. Fallen empires bear sober warning to that truth.
The psalmist asks God to “let the nations be judged in your sight. Put them in fear, O Lord, that the nations may know themselves to be but men” (Psalm 9:19-20, NKJV, emphasis added).
ISIS and Ebola remind us of the limits of our power and the fact of our mortality.
We hear the inane question once again. Did God cause this? Though unanswerable and irrelevant, it persists in every catastrophe. We wait expectantly for someone to explain the mysteries and purposes of the Almighty.
One might as well seek to know the shape of yellow.
The most important question Christians should ask is not what is God doing, but what does he want us to do?
Tonya Huff is right about one thing:
Living in fear is “not living.”
Jesus told us that as the curtain of history descended the nations would be in “distress” and in “perplexity.” (Luke 21:25, KJV). He said men’s hearts would fail them for fear in the midst of global reeling.
Yet the Bible commands us in so many places – practically on every page – not to be afraid.
“Fear not” is arguably one of the most frequent refrains throughout scripture, along with “believe.”
Why is this?
First, because God knows us. He understands that fear is a natural emotion. Fear is primal.
Secondly, because the darkest hours are just before dawn. In this present darkness, as fear spreads its insidious tentacles around the globe, fulfilling ancient prophesy, the Christian is to remember our Lord’s command.
This is not the self-conscious urging of some insecure and impotent deity conjured up by superstitious imagination.
This is the joyously confident battle cry of our cosmic Commander in Chief. He shall one day ride triumphant upon a white charger, leading his heavenly hosts to glorious victory against all the arrayed forces of pure evil.
His name is Faithful and True.
The God who tells us not to be afraid is the same God to whom “the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance … all nations before him are nothing … and vanity” (Isaiah 40: 15, 17, KJV).
This is power. This is victory. This is hope. This is confidence.
This is ultimate and final reality.
This is God.
When the dark days come, he will whisper to your trembling heart: “Trust me, I’ve got this covered.”
What matters is not what in the world God’s doing. Stop trying to figure that out. What matters is trusting him to take care of you.
Sometimes that’s not easy, admittedly.
But it’s still what matters most.
“God is our refuge and strength … therefore we will not fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the sea” (Psalm 46: 2, NKJV).
Trust him. It’s the only way to live.
May God bless you and your family.