A Dangerous Four-Letter Word

Good morning from Westminster, MD!

As I type today, we are coming up on two months of living in the COVID-19 reality. It feels both longer and shorter. Some days it is hard to remember what life was like prior to the global pandemic. Did we really go to restaurants and actually eat on-location? Did we go into stores, or anywhere else, without a facemask? The world has certainly changed and in some ways it will more than likely never be the same.

At the same time, this period of staying home and taking extra precautions has flown by. It is hard to believe we are approaching mid-May after enduring this new reality since mid-March. Despite the shutdown, life, and the days, continue to move forward.

Despite being months into this worldwide crisis, there are still a lot of unknowns. When will this end? What will life look like on the other side? Will there be a resurgence of COVID-19? Will I or someone I love get sick? The uncertainty leads us to a dangerous four-letter word: FEAR.

Fear can be crippling in many ways. As someone who has struggled with anxiety, I have experienced the adrenaline, discomfort, and panic fear can create. It can hijack our minds and pollute our thought life. Fear can keep us from moving forward, making the next step unclear and seemingly fraught with danger. Fear is a powerful emotion and destructive to our wellbeing if it becomes our default setting.

While fear is a dangerous four-letter word, it pales in comparison to another four-letter word: HOPE. Hope, like fear, is a dangerous word. In fact, it is far more powerful and, therefore, far more dangerous. Hope can kick fear’s butt (yup, I said it). Where fear cripples us, hope reenergizes and renews us. When fear tries to destroy us, hope can give us the resolve we need to fight on. Hope is a dangerous word.

How do I know this is true? Well, personal experience in my journey with anxiety, but it would be easy to dismiss that as unique to my situation. However, there are far more convincing arguments. Throughout history, when people have been attacked and held captive in one way or another, one of the first order’s of business for their enemy is to destroy their hope. From slavery to war to genocide to prisoner-of-war camps, eliminating hope and spreading hopelessness has been used to gain great power over others. This strategy has been used over and over again because of how effective it is at crippling its victims, holding them captive in a mental prison of despair. Fydor Dostoevsky said, “To live without hope is to cease to live.”

Fear is not the end of the story. Despite its power, hope can overpower it every time. While fear has been used to hold people down, hope has been used to break those chains and create a new tomorrow. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “We have always held to the hope, the belief, the conviction that there is a better life, a better world, beyond the horizon.”

While both men did not live to see the ultimate impact their hope would have on their battles, King against racial injustice and FDR in World War II, the end result is undeniable. Facing fear, they did not lose hope. In hope they attacked the fear that opposed them and overcame. The hope they held provided hope to others and changed the world.

This is a great lesson for us as we navigate this global crisis. Fear is rampant, but it does not have to win. We are a resilient people created with intention and for a purpose by a God who loves us. We have faced great enemies before and overcome. We will do the same with COVID-19. The pandemic of fear created by the global pandemic may want to hold us captive, but it has a stronger enemy. Another four-letter world. Hope.

– James Belt

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