In the spring of 1936, the members of the Lykov family made a decision that would change their lives forever: they disappeared into the Siberian taiga, completely isolating themselves from the world for the next 40 years.
Still suffering from the traumas brought upon him by the First World War and the loss of his brother who had been shot down by the communists, Karp took his wife, his 9-year-old son and 2-year-old daughter and hid in the Siberian taiga, where the scorching blast of religious persecution could not reach them. Geologists, who accidentally discovered them only in 1978, said that the family members were completely cut off from reality, living hundreds of miles from the nearest human settlement, deprived of the most basic conditions. Two of the family’s four children were born in the wilderness and could not speak intelligibly.
Karp would find out how incredibly the world had transformed in his absence—World War II had taken place, and technological progress had profoundly changed life as he knew it. The time had come for the man to analyse the decision he had taken decades before, under the rule of fear. But his family refused to leave the secluded place which was, at that time, their only home.
A time of dilemmas
The questions that arise these days are numerous and disturbing. There are no clear answers and the future seems to bring us something completely new. To the authorities’ concern and to the difficulties of creating a vaccine the questions of our own sleepless nights are added: what will happen in the future? And how will our lives change?
The fear of the unknown haunts us in different ways. Some protect themselves against an uncertain future by minimising or even denying the danger. Others take an imaginary refuge in remembering the life they knew only a few months ago when most things were more predictable. There are also those who are aware that we have plunged into the unknown, who are looking everywhere for competent people who have precise answers to describe the future as accurately as possible.
What has been will be again
The history of our world seems to revolve around the same uncertainties concerning our existence.
As surprised as we may be at the changes that occur nowadays, we are not the first to struggle with the fear of the unknown. In the book of Ecclesiastes, one of the greatest philosophers of our world wrote the following: “What has been will be again, and what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9, NIV).
Even the first humans deeply felt this fear of an unknown future when they left the Garden of Eden filled with sorrow. As he was wiping his brother’s blood from his hands on the grass, Cain must have felt the horror of the unknown growing inside him because of the crime he had committed and the terrible consequences that would follow.
When the door of the ark opened after the flood, Noah and his family encountered a completely unknown world. They must have wondered how safe the earth would be and what other disasters the future held.
The same emotions we feel nowadays have knocked at the door of those before us even though the context was different. Restlessness, the fear of unknown dangers, helplessness and the awareness of life’s fragility—these have always been a part of the spectrum of human emotions.
During the 1991 Gulf War, Iraq launched a series of missile attacks on Israel, killing about 100 people. After the war, Israeli doctors analysed the statistics and were surprised to discover that 89 of those people (about 90% of the casualties) died not from bombs but from heart attacks.
It is not surprising that, for most of us, the fight is neither biological, nor chemical, nor nuclear, but is rather a mental battle. And the only one who has full authority to provide answers that can soothe our troubles is God.
Everything is linked to a primordial virus
Jesus’ statement: “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven” (Luke 10:18) could be the starting point in understanding the tragedy we are experiencing these days. These words addressed to the disciples can lead us to the source of this primordial ‘virus’ of moral origins.
God’s creatures had begun to get sick, inexplicably. Those perfect angels, whom we read about in the Bible, would defy the cause-and-effect principle. Fear, violence, selfishness, rebellion and dishonesty had been among the symptoms of a frightening infection.
Fear has its origins in this initial virus, known as sin. Without this virus, we would not be where we find ourselves today. The Scripture’s precisely accurate statistics point to a 100% infection rate—we all carry this virus within us. Wearing masks will not help, nor will isolating ourselves on mountain peaks, because the virus has affected human nature to its very core.
Facing this alarming reality, God’s plan of intervention was astonishing for the entire universe. God sought our recovery and the distribution of an effective antidote. His plan surprised even Satan: Jesus decided to become a man, to live among men without getting sick, and then to die for us.
Heaven’s repeated efforts to heal us are clearly presented throughout the Bible and what happened on the Cross far exceeds our ability to understand divine intervention.
The antidote linked to our hope
Jesus’ words on the cross, “It is finished!” brought us another message that sin-infected humanity had been desperately awaiting: the ruthless dictatorship of the sin pandemic was over, the uncertainty concerning our planet’s future was over. Finally, an antidote was found and the price to pay for it was Christ’s blood.
As the Calvary scene unfolds, we learn amazing truths about God that can become the solution to our fears:
1. No matter what happens, God is never overpowered. The history of our planet confirms the words of Daniel the prophet: “He changes times and seasons; he deposes kings and raises up others” (Daniel 2:21). In His Omniscience, God does not gamble, nor can bad luck or misfortune take Him by surprise. Even if new scenarios emerge, carrying implications that are complex and difficult to penetrate, God is God.
2. God’s unique character trait, that distinguishes Him from any rival crafted by the human mind, is the supreme, unconditional love poured out upon humanity. When He died in our place, God sent us the following message: “Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken, nor my covenant of peace be removed” (Isaiah 54:10).
3. In His way of leading events—known as providence among Christians—He does not pursue easy solutions, but good solutions. At Golgotha, the ultimate sacrifice was not the simplest alternative. On the contrary, God had to do the impossible. Sometimes, God intervenes miraculously when He chooses not to avoid suffering. A nation passing through the Red Sea, Daniel the prophet spending the night among hungry lions, but in complete safety, a few fishermen escaping drowning as Jesus says three words, Lazarus who had been dead for four days and then being raised—these are evidence of divine intervention.
Rescue amid trial
Our worries and fears, however justified, fade before God’s ability to intervene. And yet, what makes me reluctant to triumphantly proclaim absolute immunity to misery, and plentiful prosperity, for the believer is that the way God intervenes does not always meet our expectations. God does not always guarantee the calming of the storm, or the miraculous healings, or completely avoiding the trials that stalk us.
Our Lord Jesus’ redeeming sacrifice has served not only as an antidote to sin, but also as a vaccine against our fears. In a world of fears and anxieties, His followers have distinguished themselves by their courage and confidence that goes beyond nonbelievers’ understanding.
Although Jesus’ sacrifice is all-embracing, it works only for those who accept it. His sacrifice did not bring His followers additional knowledge of their future, nor miraculous revelations about the unknown, and most of the time not even prosperity or celebrity.
The Scriptures describe the faith of some of our Saviour’s most devoted disciples as follows: “Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated—the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground” (Hebrews 11:36-38). What gave them the courage and strength to live this life? What hope made them go beyond their fear of the unknown?
In the summer of 1941, the whole of Europe looked with terror at the German war machine. Made to march for days and deprived of sleep, German soldiers were advancing fearlessly despite flying bullets, defying the fear of death with courage and even euphoria. Many wondered what their secret was and whether or not the Aryan race was indeed superior to others. The answer was in fact much simpler: German doctors prescribed soldiers Perviti, a drug containing methamphetamine that induced energy, optimism and increased fighting skills.
It does not matter how many similarities can be found between the courage of God’s children in the face of martyrdom and the courage of German soldiers. The major difference is the source of that courage. Once the drug’s effects dissipated, German soldiers would suffer from dizziness, depression, hallucinations. Some of them ended up committing suicide.
The safest remedy to fear
There are several ways to free ourselves from fear. We have the freedom to choose the most appropriate antidote to heal the fear of the unknown. As far as I am concerned, the best remedy must contain these ingredients:
1. a balanced analysis of danger to avoid underestimating or exaggerating its impact, considering relevant principles offered within the Scripture, and according to the context;
2. an awareness of our own vulnerability caused by sin and acceptance of Jesus’ sacrifice as the only way out;
3. creating a secure and effective connection with God by handing over our future to Him.
For some people, this may be just one way to deal with fear, but for those who know God, it is the only way. The Scriptures are filled with images that emphasise this uniqueness of God’s solutions: one ship in the midst of the flood, one narrow path among many others, one door to enter, one redeeming sacrifice. The alternative is not hard to imagine, especially now, when the principles we once relied on are collapsing. It all depends on the options we are aiming for. Unfortunately, many people reach the top of the stairs only to find that they have leaned the stairs against the wrong wall and thus missed the target.
This pandemic we must all go through may be an opportunity to discover a rare hope in our world. Before me, the unknown remains unknown: I do not know what will happen next or what I will face. But when I choose by faith to remain with God, the fear disappears. Because today I choose the vaccine of Jesus’ sacrifice, I look forward with confidence, but not only in the short term. I do not know if I will stay healthy until the end of the coronavirus pandemic, or if my family will be safe, or how our financial situation will evolve. It has not been revealed to me how long this crisis will last or what will follow.
But what I do know is His promise: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10). While the crisis that has engulfed the world may give us enough reason to fear, Heaven’s promises remain enough to ignite hope and light inside of us.
Felix Mușat serves as a pastor within the Seventh-day Adventist Church.