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  • John Howard

Power over fear

A natural reaction to the pandemic crisis we are going through is fear. After all, it's a health and economic disaster. Even schools and churches are shut down. No one knows when this will change and under what conditions. But we have a "treatment" for fear even if we don't have one for COVID-19. I'll use a story of another disaster to illustrate. In late October and early November of 2007, seven major wildfires ripped through San Diego County. The most destructive was the Rice Fire which started on November 22 and raced through my hometown of Fallbrook destroying 248 structure, mostly homes. At one point, a 40 MPH wall of flame jumped Interstate 15 and destroyed most of some friends' neighborhood. A mandatory evacuation order was issued so we arranged to stay with a son in Murrieta if needed. Then we hurriedly packed some bags, gathered up pets and essential items and met at my daughter-in-law, Lynn's, house on Fallbrook Street near the Naval Weapon Station. We had a good view from there so I decided we'd actually leave if we saw flames. A few minutes later we saw flames leaping up Red Mountain and it was "go" time! By then, all the highways out of Fallbrook were closed by the fires and we had to evacuate west across Camp Pendleton just as it was getting dark. We got to I-5 and headed north to take the Ortega Highway back inland to Lake Elsinore and then south to Murrieta. Along the way, our three cars got separated so I was driving alone with my grandchildren, Chelsea (then 11 years old) and Trent (then 4) in the car. Neither of them had ever been on that unlit, windy, mountain road. After about an hour of driving in darkened silence, Trent said from the back seat: "Granddaddy is lost!" I glanced over at Chelsea in the front passenger seat. She didn't say anything but the look on her face showed she was caught up in fear too. So I told them that in a few minutes we'd get to the edge of the mountains and we'd be able to see the lights of the city of Lake Elsinore in the valley below and there would a big dark hole in the middle which is the lake itself. They were still apprehensive and both stayed awake fearfully in spite of the late hour. When we got to the overlook and saw the city below, they both realized that granddaddy knew where he was going and they both fell sound asleep in about a minute, almost literally. What changed? Only their confidence that granddaddy indeed had things under control. What about our fear in the current troubles? The truth is we can have confidence in someone who has things much more under control than I did on that November night. Just as I loved Chelsea and Trent on that night, God loves us. In John 4:15-21, we are told that, for those who confess Jesus is the Son of God, that he abides in us and we in him. This abiding is in love. Verse 18 tells us that perfect love drives out fear. The song When I Stand in Your Love is all about that. The passage also tells us that love not only lets us move beyond fear but, in our love for God, we will love others as well. Just as my love for Chelsea and Trent meant that I would go to any lengths to care for them, God cares for us. So rest in God's love, put aside fear, and love those around you.

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