Do we all have PTSD? I heard someone ask that question recently. Has COVID caused its own kind of post-traumatic stress disorder for us all? Is this stress behind our other health crises and depression and rising street violence?
Getting my second vaccination and emerging from my house after a year, I couldn’t believe the sense of relief I felt. The end of my hibernation coincided with Easter, and it felt much like its own resurrection. Not to minimize the capital-R Resurrection, mind you, but I, too, felt a sense of conquest.
Death, darkness, pandemic—all defeated.
Except that pandemic is not. Yet. “Don’t get lackadaisical,” the experts warned, “even you vaccinated people.” There are variants, and mutants, and some of them are baaaad.
And again, stress.
Lucy asked Charlie Brown, after he deposited a 5-cent co-pay at the psychiatrist’s booth, what he was afraid of.
“Responsibility?” she suggested. “Then you have hypengyophobia. How about cats? If you’re afraid of cats, you have ailurophasia.” She listed climacaphobia (staircases), thalassophobia (the ocean), and gephyrophobia (bridges). Finally, she suggested pantaphobia.
“What’s pantophobia?” Charlie Brown said.
“The fear of everything!”
“THAT’S IT!” Brown shouted, sending his therapist tumbling backward.
The bald boy in the zigzag shirt is afraid of everything all the time, a diagnosis that for many people describes the past year. But there are two problems with that condition: no one can endure fear for such a prolonged period, and Christians are advised “fear not.”
“Fear is an emotion, and it is quite impossible—even physically impossible—to maintain any emotion for very long,” C.S. Lewis wrote. “Crisis feeling of any sort is essentially transitory. Feelings come and go. When they come, good use can be made of them, (but) they cannot be our regular spiritual diet.”
Lewis was writing about a season when the trepidation of World War Two segued to anxiety about the Atomic Age. The fears of the Forties gave way seamlessly to the fears of the Fifties, and much concern arose about the Second Coming of Christ. Lewis said enough. “What is important is that we should not always fear, or hope, about the end, but that we should always remember, always take it (the end of the world) into account.”
The same may be said concerning COVID. We cannot live in constant and unending fear, even with the threatened rise of a fourth wave. The body can’t stand it. Neither can the spirit.
The believer is urged repeatedly in Scripture to “fear not.” Angels, psalmists, prophets, and Jesus himself delivered the message. Some exegetes say there are 365 biblical injunctions against fear, one for every day of the year. Varying translations make counting a challenge, but the point is clear.
If anything, crisis should instruct us on the brevity of life. Crisis should motivate us to share our faith with multitudes now confronted by their own mortality. Crisis must plunge us deeper into the perfect love that casts out fear (1 John 4:18).
Let it be that post-COVID stress gives way to deeper trust. Let us live in the assurance that God will do something wonderful with the trial of this season.
Eric Reed is editor of Illinois Baptist media.