COVID-19 and overcoming 'vain imaginings'

Wallace Henley Portrait

The COVID-19 virus is emanating from 5G towers, and people who believe that are trying to burn them down.

A train engineer concludes that the U.S. Navy Hospital Ship Mercy was not “what they say it’s for,” but perhaps a tool of the powers out to destroy civilization through the galloping virus. He aims his locomotive at the docking ship to expose the conspiracy.

Those episodes over the last two weeks — and many more — show that fear is a terrible quarantine companion, and fear of the unknown is the worst kind of fear.

One may not come down with the virus, yet the longer he or she is quarantined the greater the possibility of being sickened with xenophobia — the fear of the alien, the strange, the unknown. 

We all live inside a narrative crafted to define, understand, and make sense of our experience. Within our minds and the storylines that nest there, fantasies, wrong conclusions, ill-conceived actions and bizarre behaviors can take shape.

Worst, what the Bible calls our “vain imaginings” and “futile thinking” offer immense ground for the demonic to erect “strongholds” from which they can launch attacks on our faith and sanity.

Second Corinthians 10:3-6 says,

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh,for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ…

Donald Trump lives inside a narrative too — “The Power of Positive Thinking.” Trump’s spiritual nurturing was at the feet of Norman Vincent Peale, the most famous proponent of the positive thinking idea. Vain imaginings can too easily be nurtured inside that narrative-house. This may have influenced Trump’s early views that the virus would not become as serious as it is.

Fear of the unknown is the greatest danger for us quarantined folk. In the absence of clear answers, we are driven to hack together our own narratives about what is happening, how it happened, and what’s going to happen.

If fear of the unknown is the worst kind of fear, a focus on the known is the best antidote. False imaginings stand against the “knowledge of God,” says 2 Corinthians 10:5. Therefore, the best cure is concentrating on the revealed knowledge of God.

The Scripture urges us to take our thoughts captive to Christ by meditating on these certainties in light of His revelation. Here’s a sampling of what we know by God’s revelation of Himself through the written word, the Bible, and the Word Incarnate, Jesus Christ, as revealed by the Holy Spirit:

1.    We are passing through an actual crisis, and we do not overcome vain imaginings by more vain imaginings in the form of denial: Jeremiah 6:14
2.    Crisis does not obliterate God: Psalm 139:1-12
3.    God is love: 1 John 4:7-8
4.    As His image-bearers we are recipients of His love: John 3:16; 1 John 4:9-11
5.    Nothing can separate us from the love of God: Romans 8:38-39
6.    God does not change: Numbers 23:19; Hebrews 13:8
7.    God will never leave or forsake those who come to Him: Hebrews 13:5-6
8.    God has a plan for the cosmos: Romans 8:8-25
9.    Within His cosmic plan, God has a purpose for every human who comes to Him, and uses all things — including crises — to work together for good for those who love and receive Him and His call: Romans 8:28-29
10. God is not quarantined in isolation: Psalm 23

The crucial action given in 2 Corinthians 10:5 is taking “every thought captive to obedience to Christ.” We must tear down “barriers erected against the truth of God,” and fit “every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ.” (The Message)

Mike Lindell did exactly that on March 30 during a White House briefing. He provided a beautiful example of how important it is in a xenophobic atmosphere to have a healthy narrative built upon the knowledge of God. Lindell, My Pillow founder and CEO, affronted some in the White House press corps when he spoke at the invitation of President Trump. The nation must turn back to God, said Lindell. “I encourage you to use this time to get back in the Word… Read our Bibles and spend time with our families.”

Lindell’s message, spoken from inside his narrative, intruded into the narrative where CNN’s Jim Acosta resides. From inside those walls, Acosta opined that Trump’s briefings could be “better designed” if the president didn’t allow “these PR stunts like Mr. Pillow coming out and giving a plug for his company and that sort of thing.”

Yet considering that Lindell’s life-narrative includes his rescue by God from the destructive lifestyle of crack cocaine addiction, it’s understandable why he wants to point others to it. It is “testimony” that has held up in the face of intense temptation and stark public exposure.

If we must be quarantined, it is better to be stuck in a house with proven hope than one with speculative angst. It would seem preferable to be locked up with Lindell than the 5G tower burners, conspiracy-maddened train drivers, and maybe even big media celebrities.

Wallace Henley is a former pastor, White House, and congressional aide. He served eighteen years as a teaching pastor at Houston's Second Baptist Church. Wallace, the author of more than twenty books, now  does conferences on the church and culture, church growth and leadership. He is the founder of Belhaven University's Master of Ministry Leadership Degree.

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