What feeds our fear in times of crisis, such as this pandemic we are in? How can we avoid letting fear paralyze our search for information and our ability to make the right decisions?
People die due to “lack of knowledge.” A lack of knowledge feeds our fears at any time, but does so even more dramatically during a pandemic. That is what the biblical prophet Hosea claims in his controversial book when he echoes God’s warning: “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge” (Hosea 4:6).
Was it information that they lacked? Expert information from the scientific community was not available, peer-reviewed articles had not been established, and results of laboratory tests were not accessible to anybody seven hundred years before Christ (the Iron Age). Anyway, in the 21st century, it does not seem to help, as we are bombarded by fake news, bogus claims, and conspiracies.
Even if information could save lives and there were ways to assess trustworthy data, some will only follow their fears. Ignorance begets fear and sends individuals on a free-fall spiral that can cost their lives. Fear can paralyze our search for information, and this can have fatal consequences.
Fear in times of crisis
Face to face with an unknowing people, Hosea did not want to scare his audience with doomsday oracles and scary predictions. A careful reading of Hosea reveals that the main message of the book is the passionate love that God has for humans. Solid proof in that sense is found in the passage where Hosea changes the names of his children.
After marrying a woman known to be a prostitute, part of an amazing plan God used to wake His people from their slumber, Hosea chose to give his babies the worst names that a child could have. The eldest one was name “Jezreel,” to remember the tragedies seen in that bloody valley. It would be the equivalent of naming your son “Covid” or your daughter “Corona.” His other son he named “Lo-ammi”—it means “not my people.” The most hard-to-hear name is the one given to the girl “Lo-ruhama.” Her name means “not loved.” The bond between a father and a daughter is very important, and it breaks my heart to think of calling a daughter this.
But then, when the names of his children were changed, the move was meant to reflect God’s grace and mercy. In Jezreel was emphasized how God can provide new crops, Lo-ammi” was changed to “my people,” and that is how this verse addresses the audience. The most exciting for me is his girl’s name being changed to “my loved.”
Just like the Hebrew concept of ”knowing” goes deeper than the mere superficial meaning of fact-based information, which is so prevalent in the Western world today, the knowledge that Hosea wanted to share was more than information.
God wants to have a relationship with us. He wants us to trust him on each well-thought-out decision that we make. It must be based on a loving bond with the Almighty. That relationship is not just a mystic experience where neurons are shut down for the sake of some “spiritual” encounter.
Replacing fear with faith
The mind is not separated from the spiritual dimension of humans. The quest for information and accuracy comes after the bond with Heaven has been established.
The main reason for this is that by cultivating a true relationship with God we are made capable of rejecting fear, to seek the Word and to be responsible with the resources that the Lord has provided.
“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge…” I still mourn for the loss of life due to COVID-19. Loved ones who chose not to take seriously the dangers of this disease, mostly because of fear.
I have chosen to keep a close relationship with God, to seek Him every day more than before. I have taken all the precautions possible: physical distance, cleaning my hands frequently, using the mask, and being vaccinated.
I have based my decisions on the certainty of God’s love and grace, even during challenging times. Fear is always lurking over our shoulders, but will not have control over my life. The merciful God that I have learned to love has given me the opportunity to serve Him with passion and energy. I will not allow a virus, a threat, or anything to intimidate me. The prophet reminds us: “I will deliver this people from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death. Where, O death, are your plagues? Where, O grave, is your destruction?” (Hosea 13:14).
Efrain Velazquez, PhD, teaches Old Testament Archaeology Studies and is the president of Inter-American Adventist Theological Seminary.