Q. In a time of pandemic and confusion, what is the first temptation we should be concerned to resist?
I would say that the first temptation we should be resolved to resist is the temptation to give way to fear. This is why we began with our understanding of who God is—we want to be God-fearers, not microbe-fearers. So remember that God retains absolute control over all things, including all events in a time of pandemic and confusion, and remember also that God is always good, all the time. This enables you to rest in Him, and to give thanks to Him for what is happening.
But there will be assaults on your equilibrium, and you will be tempted to give way to fear. “What if someone you love gets the virus? What if someone you love dies of the virus? What if this lay-off is not just temporary, and I have lost my job for good?” These are questions that can crowd into your mind, especially after a long day.
Incidentally, as an aside, I would urge all you Christian women particularly to pay attention to this. You are Sarah’s daughters, Peter says, if you submit yourselves to your husbands, and do not give way to “any terror” (1 Peter 3:6, NKJV). And husbands, take care to guard your wives, protecting and reassuring her in times like these. Too often it runs the other way, where the fears and anxieties of the wives start to steer and direct the decisions of their husbands. So, for husbands and wives both, the virtue that is needed in times like this is courage.
But here is where we often make a great mistake. We know that we ought not to be fearful and anxious, and we also know that we should be steadfast and courageous, and so we resolve to steel our hearts and minds so that they might serve as a shield for the peace of God, which we think of as this small, flickering, guttering candle deep within our hearts. In short, we think of the peace of God as the thing to be protected, and we try to screw up courage in our hearts and minds in order to do that protecting.
But this is exactly backwards.
Notice how Paul arranges things when he tells us to be “anxious for nothing.”
“Be anxious for nothing, 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 minds through Christ Jesus.”
Phil. 4:6–7 (NKJV)
Here the peace of God is not that which we protect with the shield of our resolve. Rather, the resolve of our hearts and minds is protected by the peace of God. The peace of God is the hard shield; it is not the soft body. We are the soft body, and we are what needs the protection.
And note, going back to what we said in Q3, that the key to getting this shield into place is by “prayer and supplication.” But not just prayer and supplication because it is possible to be that person who worries on his knees. It says “prayer and supplication with thanksgiving.”