“Nonsense remains nonsense even when we talk it about God.”—C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain
Recently I read the following posted on social media:
“COVID-19 is not your enemy, fear is. You will not die one day sooner or one day later than God has planned for you. But he did not create you to live in fear. The Bible says, ‘God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.’ 2 Timothy 1:7.”
So, please explain to me the case of 41-year-old Louisiana COVID-19 victim Congressman-elect Luke Letlow. Picture his distraught widow holding her nine-month-old as she tries to explain to her four-year-old what’s happened to Daddy, all the while struggling to stanch her own tears, which just won’t stop flowing. Did fear put her in that situation?
And is it fear that has caused thousands upon thousands upon thousands of others to go through a similar soul-shredding after COVID-19 stole their loved one?
Only a person who’s never observed major human suffering up close, who’s altogether without human compassion or who’s just blindly parroting some party line could utter such cruel absurdity.
I’ll grant that fear certainly can be an enemy. If it’s pathological, if it’s all-consuming, if it’s debilitating, then it definitely needs to be addressed at a psychological and, perhaps, medical level. But the fact that some people may be inordinately fearful doesn’t make COVID-19 any less an enemy.
The coin of fear has two sides: Fear can be both a curse and a blessing. Fear is one of the most crucial factors in human survival. Often, it’s when we lose appropriate fear that bad things happen.
But the statement gets worse.
“You will not die one day sooner or one day later than God has planned for you.”
I’ll admit, that’s a popular and frequently cited platitude. But that’s all it is: a platitude. And a harmful one, at that.
Not only is the statement nonsense, I can all but guarantee that the person who made it doesn’t truly believe it. And how do I know that? By observing human behaviors that are universal: Loving parents don’t allow their two-year-olds to play unattended in busy streets because they’re confident the toddler is not going to “die one day sooner or one day later than God has planned.”
If you think God has a foreordained, individualized death date for each human, have you ever wondered why the average age God chooses for death in the little country of Monaco is 89.4 years, while the average age God chooses for death in the Central African Republic is 52.8 years?
If God’s life-termination plan calls for one nation to experience 41 percent less life (on average) than is enjoyed by another nation, doesn’t that strike you as discriminatory?
Or are the foregoing survival differences not based on God’s decisions about when people should die? Are there earthly cause-and-effect factors that produce such varied results, quite apart from any divine death decrees based on predetermined dates?
To the writer of this wholly inappropriate statement, I would ask: Just how does your assertion help to “heal the brokenhearted” (Luke 4:18), who are weeping because COVID-19 has robbed them of a spouse, a mother, a father, a sibling, a child, a dear friend? And why would anyone be attracted to a God who plays such a capricious role in planning far in advance who’s going to die on which day?
I find pertinent to this discussion what I believe is the real message of 2 Timothy 1:7: “God has not given us a spirit of [debilitating, paralyzing] fear, but of power [to take action and make a difference in life], and of love [for all whose lives are affected by their own actions and by ours], and of a sound mind [capable of rationally distinguishing between healthy and unhealthy fear, and between God’s role and ours in issues affecting life and death].”
James Coffin, who retired from Seventh-day Adventist Church employment after more than 35 years as a youth pastor, senior pastor and editor, has since 2011 been executive director of the Interfaith Council of Central Florida.
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