Ebola. This one small word has struck fear in the hearts of men, women, and children around the world. This outbreak has taken many lives – too many. It’s tragic. It’s frightening, not just for the people of western Africa, but around the world. Ebola has jumped continents. It has reached as far as the United States. Americans are used to watching outbreaks like this from a safe distance. An unfamiliar disease and the ease of travel have caused fear to spread.
I am on staff at my church. A couple of weeks ago we had a discussion about the Ebola outbreak. What would we do if someone in our community became sick with this deadly disease? Would the pastors visit them? Would we disband the greeting time during church services, or cancel them completely? I sat there listening to the conversation between my coworkers before I finally spoke. “You know, these are the things that people with chronic illnesses have to deal with every day.”
I went on to explain that every flu season, every time a friend or family member gets sick, every time a virus spreads through our town, we ask ourselves these same questions. Will I hide in the bathroom during greeting time this week? Will I skip church? Should I visit my sick grandparent in the hospital? Can I risk going to the grocery store this week? I need toilet paper, but what if the person in front of me in line sneezes on me?
Please don’t get me wrong, I am not making light of the Ebola outbreak in any way. It is a terrible thing, and I am praying that it will come to an end yesterday. What I am saying is that every day people with chronic illnesses have to make the choices that are new to others. Friends, we are well-equipped to help others trust God and learn how to live with the possibility of catching something that could kill us. Our faith has been put into practice.
Think about the things you have learned over the years. You’ve become good at using hand sanitizer, washing your hands, politely declining shaking someone’s hand, and not touching the railing of the escalator in the mall. You have learned how to adapt so that you can live a full life without isolating yourself in fear. You have also learned that there are times when taking extra precautions are necessary. There have been a few winters where I had to wear a surgical mask every time I left the house. My immune system was so compromised that it was the only way I could live life well. But I lived. I put that mask on, smiled with my eyes when people stared at me, and refused to live in fear.
I am reminded of the story of Esther. Esther was a young Jewish girl who, through the unlikeliest of circumstances, became queen. One day Haman, one of the king’s men, devised a plot against the Jewish people. He convinced the king to destroy all of the Jews. The king, not knowing Esther was Jewish, agreed. When the decree was sent out, informing all the people when the Jews would be destroyed, Esther was devastated. Her uncle Mordecai, the man who had raised her, sent her a message - words that have become a challenge to men and women throughout the ages. We find these words in Esther 4:13-14 (ESV).
Then Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, “Do not think to yourself that in the king's palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father's house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”
Oh I know it’s not really that easy for us. There are times when we’re afraid as well. But we have lots of practice when it comes to taking our fears to God. We can help others do the same. It all comes down to the sovereignty of God. I trust God. I willingly place my life in His hands. I echo the words of Esther, “…if I perish, I perish (Esther 4:16).”
If we have a relationship with Jesus Christ, we don’t have to fear death. We can look forward to eternity with our God. Do you know Him? If so, share Him with others so that they can find peace, overcome fear, and look forward to eternity with the God of all creation.
© October 29, 2014