When You Fear Not Being in Control

Households across the world are aglow from screens delivering coronavirus updates. They’re also replete with fear. 

Leslie worries about her aging husband, whose health has been in slow decline since he turned 65. Tom knows he has no control over his pregnant wife’s health (or their baby’s) and goes to sleep nervous every night. Jessica is scared about her kids’ safety when they have to run to the grocery store, and Ron fears contracting the disease when he goes to work at the nursing home. Brittany can’t seem to control her anxiety over the virus, but it comes on full force at random moments, and she fears the next unexpected attack.

Then there are fears surrounding policies and quarantines, as people anxiously await the choices their leaders will make, choices that are out of their hands. And there’s the fear of tragedy, the worst-case scenario coming to pass, as sudden harm visits our family members—even us.

As finite creatures living in a world affected by sin, we fear anything out of our control.

Why We Fear Being Out of Control

To get to the root of this universal fear, we must start at the beginning. In the garden, sin corrupted our fear of the Lord, turning awe of God into terror before him; worship of God into idolatry of created things; and reverence into rebellion against him. Now, our human predicament is dire: We’ve rebelled against the only One who’s in control, crowned ourselves as little sovereigns, and discovered we’re terribly inadequate for the task

As finite creatures living in a world affected by sin, we fear anything out of our control.

We fear what we can’t control because we’ve tried to control it, but can’t because we aren’t God.

In the Old Testament, we read of the Israelites repeatedly falling prey to this uneasy attempt at self-sovereignty as they take refuge from their enemies in other nations and in idols. In Isaiah 46, Israel has been exiled to Babylon, and God rebukes the Israelites for their worship of false deities: 

To whom will you liken me and make me equal,

and compare me, that we may be alike?

Those who lavish gold from the purse,

and weigh out silver in the scales,

hire a goldsmith, and he makes it into a god;

then they fall down and worship! . . . 

If one cries to it, it does not answer

or save him from his trouble. (Isa. 46:5–7, italics added)

God describes Babylon’s idols as dead and worthless substitutes for him, mere inanimate objects that…

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