Panic’s Empty Promise and Learning to Choose Joy

Dear Joey,

Worry whispers half-truths everywhere: on the evening news; at the doctor’s office; in the scroll of idle hands—you’re not safe, it says, subtly feeding the feeling that worry is warranted.

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Do you hear it? I’m sure you do–especially now with “the virus,” as the Goobies call it at our house. You head out the door to go fix broken bones even as the bones of our nation are bending under the weight of responsibility, beneath the cost of the consequences if we all don’t collectively get serious about staying safe. The perilous state of politics hovers in that place too, and so much uncertainty hangs heavy in the world.


It all feels so familiar. Remember when the kids were first diagnosed with food allergies? Worry twisted truth and convinced us to make life small.

Agonizing over the health and safety of our family felt like the responsible thing to do. Extreme measures ensued: scouring the kitchen and building a stockpile of safe foods;  washing hands repeatedly. Obsessively. Avoiding public places; rarely eating out; enforcing distance among kids to keep invisible allergens at bay. 

For awhile, I feared everything and enjoyed nothing.

Panic promises control but amplifies anxiety instead. When anxiety grows, lives become small, and when lives become small, the Enemy gets his way. Worry makes us feel like we’re doing something. Not worrying feels irresponsible.

But what is it Jesus said about worrying? That it won’t add a day to our life anyway (Matthew 6:27). No wonder Jesus warns us about the Enemy when He says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)

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This virus feels like a thief, doesn’t it?

Believing our days are best spent sequestered behind closed doors, safely tucked away from danger outside gives the Enemy of our souls an opportunity to snatch away the rich, full life Jesus came to give us. Living afraid isn’t living at all, is it?

Goodness, how I want to live. I want the Goobies to live, too. I want more for them than to merely stay alive, but to really be alive: to have a rich, flourishing life like the one Jesus promises. I want that for us all–whether confined to a small space in our homes and neighborhoods, or able to venture out in the wide world again. It is possible to live with joy even in small, sequestered spaces.

When I dared to believe this radical gift could be mine—joy even in the midst of very real, very scary concerns—I found the benefit outweighed the risk. Choosing joy is hard but possible when we choose Jesus too. Circumstances stay the same but my heart didn’t, and that changed everything. I learned the life I already had was bigger and more beautiful than fear told me it was. When I wiped away tears and opened my heart to hope, I saw it was there for the taking all along, and there was plenty to go around.  


Here we are again in a place where other scary things are plunging the world into a state of frantic despair.  The virus is invisible, but the world believes it is real. It is proving its power as we sit alone, cowering. But we aren’t afraid of bad news. We choose joy in the middle of this bad circumstance because our faith isn’t dependent on good ones. 

God is invisible. We can’t see Him either, but His power is full on display too. When we look, we find him (Jeremiah 29:13). He is the life-giving warrior tirelessly fighting on our behalf, and He calms our fears with his love (Zephaniah 3:17). When we loosen our grip on the control He already holds firm, He eases our fear and restores our joy in a beautiful exchange that enables us to really live, even in the most difficult, scary circumstances.

Let’s let Him win. His promises are never empty.

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