Pandemic Paranoia

Faith is paranoia in reverse.

Coronavirus spreads and so does paranoia. But this paranoia is not new, it’s just been hidden from view; it was hidden while life was good and “under control”. Coronavirus is exposing the paranoia that’s been there all along, running in the deep currents of our souls. What is our way out of this paranoia? Faith. Philip Yancey coined this beautiful definition of faith:

“Faith is simply paranoia in reverse.”

I’m not the right voice to share about the good and necessary medical response to Coronavirus. My voice, like yours, is limited. I’m speaking from the intersection of following Jesus and the fear I see around us.

Faith may not keep us from a sick bed or quarantine, just like it didn’t keep Jesus away from the cross. Faith does lead us out of crippling paranoia into a courageous living confidence that God is good.

It doesn’t distrust medical professionals — but faith reserves ultimate trust for Jesus alone. (See Psalm 31.14)

Three Ways Faith Helps Us Navigate This Moment

Faith invites us to embrace our limits

“I’m not in control” fuels paranoia; adding “..but Jesus is” fuels worship.

What fig leaves were for Adam and Eve, information may be to our generation. Most of us are not virologists, biologists, or medical professionals, but we try to be. We need information to feel in control, to feel covered. Faith embraces the fact we are not in control, we do not know everything, and we cannot be everywhere — God is. Faith invites us to be human before God. This is what Jesus did for us when he quoted Psalm 31.5 from the cross, “into your hand, I commit my spirit.” What if we took this global moment to learn this posture?

Faith moves us to love our neighbor

Coronavirus is clarifying how we can be a neighbor

This global moment exposes a paranoia that’s common in community: we will be hurt or betrayed by someone we know. So we go on being alone, together. Faith brings us into community, and embraces the needs of our neighbor. When we walk this path, we realize that the Church, following Jesus, has walked this way for thousands of years. Martin Luther, in response to a plague in his hometown, said this:

“We are bound to each other in such a way that no one may forsake the other in his distress but is obliged to assist and help him as he himself would like to be helped.”

As the CDC shares information about who is at risk — namely elderly and those with underlying conditions — we get a better picture of who our neighbor is in this moment, and how to love them. Right now, this means we move toward our neighbor in love when we move away from them in our person.

Because Jesus calls, we don’t get to choose our neighbor and who gets our love. Faith invites us to wash our hands, follow protocols, and think the best of others from a heart that truly desires the best for others.

Faith sees things for what they are

If Jesus doesn’t give us hope in death, he’s not worth following

We may imagine that Christian faith makes us safe, immune to difficulty, but this is fantasy. Faith in Jesus doesn’t fantasize. Christians and non-Christians both suffer. Comfort this side of eternity is a promise of the American dream only. If Jesus serves the American dream, he can’t answer “why is this happening?”

But Jesus ushers in God’s kingdom promises, not the promise of the American dream. He brings about God’s kingdom not by avoiding death, but by facing it. This is the greatest irony of the gospel. Jesus faced the hardest reality of life: death. He faced it for us and because of us.

Our fear of death is evidence that Coronavirus is not causing paranoia, but simply surfacing it. These days, we may be asking more honestly “how do I face death?”. This is the sort of honest question I believe God loves, since it’s only answer is the good news of Jesus, dying in our place for sin and living again for our rescue. Faith here is not a fantasy, but a very real answer to a very real problem.

Faith in Jesus faces the prospect of death with confidence and courage. You don’t have to live gripped by paranoia. Jesus reverses that terrible cycle, letting us breathe again, helping us live and love while we wait for a final “setting things right” of our broken world.

Published by Jared Stacy

Jared is an American Pastor, writer, and PhD Candidate in Practical Theology at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland.

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