Perhaps the worst thing people can do during a time of national crisis is panic. Fear leads to irrationality, and irrationality leads to violence, chaos and death. One of the most valuable attributes during a time of social unrest is the ability to take a deep breath, close your eyes, breathe a silent prayer and stay calm. Or, as Kipling said, to “keep your head when everyone around you is losing theirs and blaming it on you.”
Stress and worry are killers. We have known this for many years, especially in the workplace where detailed statistics are maintained. According to the Center for Workplace Mental Health, such stress causes 120,000 deaths and results in $190 billion in healthcare costs every year. No one knows what will be the death toll from stress related to the coronavirus. How many lives will be shortened, or even ended because of this? How many will suffer from depression, or be tortured by irrational fear, mental illness, or commit suicide — nobody knows.
Not that there is no cause for concern. At this writing, the number of deaths is skyrocketing, and an effective vaccination seems far on the distant horizon. Cherished customs of hand shaking, hugging, speaking face-to-face, or even meeting in-person have been obliterated. A way of life that we took for granted a month ago has been drastically altered, and we still do not know the extent of the changes, or their duration. Problems which only weeks ago seemed so pressing now pale by comparison.
Jesus uttered some famous words under circumstances which might be described as comparable. The lifestyle of his closest disciples had been dramatically altered only three years ago, and their daily routines had been changed forever. Life seemed to take on new meaning, new dimensions, and their deep love and respect for Jesus and one another was increasing daily. But then, suddenly, all of that came crashing down. Jesus had been crucified by the angry mobs, which now threatened the health and safety of the disciples as well. Although he appeared to be back, he was now saying that he was going to leave them. What will happen to their new-found life? Where is Jesus going? What would they and their families do in the face of utter rejection by society? These and a thousand other questions pressed upon their minds with unbelievable fear and anxiety. It was under these stressful conditions that our Lord said, “Let not your heart be troubled.” Really? How can you be serious? Don’t you see what has happened to our lives? And now you are going to leave us with this mess and go who knows where? Yet Jesus smiles sweetly and reassuringly says, “No, don’t be worried.”
The full statement is: “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know,” (Jn. 14:1-4nkjv). That’s it! Jesus knew exactly how to keep them calm. He said: (1) Don’t let worry and stress take over your thoughts and heart; (2) Go back to your anchor, your basic faith in God and in Christ; (3) Keep death in perspective by remembering where you are going after death; (4) remind yourself that heaven is real; (5) Remember that your rightful place is there in heaven, and you are expected; (6) Be assured that when the time is right, Jesus will conduct you home.
Think about those six facts for a few moments. Let them sink in. Those are the essential truths that Jesus spoke in order to keep his disciples calm in a time of emergency. That kind of puts things into perspective, “so that with good courage we say, The Lord is my helper; I will not fear: What shall man do unto me?” (Heb. 13:6). If you substitute the word “coronavirus” for “man” in the prior sentence, you get the idea. Brethren, let not your heart be troubled. Not now, during this time of crisis, and not anytime.
-by Robert C. Veil, Jr.