How to Transform Fear into Faith During the Pandemic

Clergy coach and author Rebekah Simon-Peter shares two key ways to keep calm and connected to God.

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- Posted on May 12, 2020

A woman in calm reflection outside.

The coronavirus has turned the world upside down. Two or three months ago, I’ll bet you hadn’t heard a lot about coronavirus. I hadn’t.  The word pandemic wasn’t even on the horizon.  Much has changed in the last few months, weeks, and even days.

But you, and others like you, are trying to heed sound professional advice, especially when it’s not easy. You are doing your best to wash your hands frequently, avoid touching your face, wearing a face mask and staying six feet apart from others. You are even sheltering in place.

Yet we know there is more to surviving a pandemic than simply avoiding infection. Germs aren’t the only contagion that spread in a viral outbreak. So does fear. Fear can be even more virulent than the coronavirus itself. And almost as harmful.

What do you do when fear kicks in?

It’s a good question. As a clergy coach, I mentor other church leaders through Creating a Culture of Renewal, a leadership program I developed.  I also spend a great deal of time mentoring fellow addicts and alcoholics in recovery. Even though these are two very different groups of people, I have learned from both about how to turn fear into faith.  

Let’s take a look at two ways that fear can steal your faith; and two powerful ways you can reclaim peace.  Even in the midst of a pandemic.   

How Fear Steals Your Faith

It used to be that the moment I felt the stirrings of fear, I would abandon God, and abandon myself. I would flee everything and run (FEAR). I ran to drugs, alcohol, and lots of food.  You name it, I did it. Trouble is, fleeing didn’t solve anything.  After I was done running, I still had the fear, plus the side effects of overdoing it.  

My brothers and sisters in recovery have taught me that it’s normal to feel fear. It’s even normal to want to escape.  

But even though fear is a natural part of being human, wallowing in it keeps you from receiving all the goodness that life has waiting for you. Because fear shuts down the ability to embrace the future.

More than 30 years in recovery from addiction, and decades in the ministry, have taught me that fear is not forever. If I don’t harm myself, if I stay close to God, this too shall pass.

How to deal with fear in the meantime?

Right now, your pastor, priest, rabbi, imam, meditation teacher and other spiritual leaders are live-streaming worship, prayer, Bible study, music, yoga and meditation. The companionship of those you know, even at a distance, will help you realize that all is not lost.  Together, you will get through this.

If you don’t have a regular spiritual community, this is a great time to get connected. It’s never been easier to try out a new group or a new practice. Not only that, spirituality is good for the immune system.

Reframe FEAR and Reclaim Your Faith

Turn fear on its side and it will reveal ways to reclaim your faith.  When I get stuck in fear, it simply means that I am forgetting everything’s all right.  Fear has an uncanny ability to drag me off into an awful imaginary future, where everything turns out terrible.  When that happens, I remember what my mentor said to me: “Stay where your feet are.”  In other words, don’t go off into the future—stay in the present moment.  

If the present moment is very hard, I call a friend, cuddle with my dog, and grab a devotional book.  When I do that, I realize the reason everything is all right is because I am not alone. God is with me.  

It’s taken awhile, but I’ve found out I really can beat fear. I can face everything and rise. God will never leave nor forsake me.  When I remember that, I don’t have to reach for booze, drugs, or mega portions of food.  God has shown me that I can handle what is in front of me.

All of us feel alone, or frightened from time to time.  But these difficult feelings are magnified at uncertain times such as these.  However, if you feel you need more than the suggestions made above, don’t wait. Please reach out and ask for additional help.  Call your local priest, minister, rabbi or friend in the faith. Don’t hesitate to reach out to a hotline for anxiety, mental health, or suicide. They are there to help you. Just like God is.

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Rebekah Simon-Peter is passionate about reconnecting spiritual leaders with the God-given powers to co-create miracles with the divine. Her award-winning program, Creating a Culture of Renewal®, has energized church leaders across the country to reclaim their calling and to grow their ministries. She is also the author of DREAM LIKE JESUS: Deepen Your Faith and Bring the Impossible to Life, The Jew Named Jesus, Green Church, and 7 Simple Steps to Green Your Church.

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