The clocks going back and the days getting shorter have a particular poignancy this year. It signals the coming of a winter that is going to deeply challenge us, perhaps even more than the past six months, with ever-tightening restrictions being announced for all the nations of the UK and the 4 week lockdown announced last night by Boris Johnson.
What do you fear for yourself and those you love in the approaching dark nights? Isolation? Perhaps being on your own over Christmas? Losing your job? The church becoming fragmented through apathy, or by strong disagreements about meeting in person? Perhaps even dying with Covid-19?
And whom or what do you trust? The ingenuity of people to create medical treatments and vaccines to save us? Your own scientific judgments based on your favourite scientist – whether that is supportive or sceptical about the current response of governments? Your own resilience?
Many of the things we fear are real possibilities. Solutions may be forthcoming from God-given medical skills but medical treatments may not be around the corner. But some of our fears may be unfounded and history may look back on this period as a gross over-reaction.
We can all debate the wisest response to this virus, but I suggest that fundamentally this season should drive us to make sure our fear is primarily a ‘Fear of the Lord’. This is the foundation of all true wisdom and security. God knows what he is doing; he is totally in charge and can be trusted.
While we should not walk into the fire barefoot, trusting God to protect us, nevertheless being a believer means our whole approach to this pandemic must be characterised by faith in God, not fear of men or ‘nature’. This is a profoundly different response to those around us who will be driven mostly by a fear of death and a hope that social distancing and vaccines might save them.
I know for myself I am rather too much like my neighbours in my hopes and fears and I am praying God will refine me through these dark times, and that I will be taught to truly say, ‘…my help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth’ (Psalm 121:2).