• EncourAGEnet: Fear: The COVID Symptom No One Talks About

  • Fear: The COVID Symptom No One Talks About

    By Richard Cohrs

    Most people live with some form of fear. Common fears include (ranked in order):  speaking before a group, heights, insects and bugs, financial problems, deep water, sickness, death, flying, loneliness, and dogs.

    Other lists today include (ranked in order): loved ones dying, loved ones becoming seriously ill, mass shootings, not having enough money for retirement, terrorism, government corruption, becoming terminally ill, hate crimes, high medical bills, and widespread civil unrest.

    Today a list of fears created by students might include (in no particular order): being bullied, losing their phone, no Internet, public speaking, being left out, parents fighting, parents dying, getting sick, no friends, and spiders. No matter the century, the circumstances, or the country, fear is common.No matter the century, the circumstances, or the country, fear is common.

    I remember that I have always lived in a fear-filled world. My earliest fear involved disobeying my mother, who then sent me to my room to wait for my father’s return from work. Oh, I dreaded the time when he would walk through the door! I learned to fear many other things: swimming too soon after a meal, catching polio, eating with unwashed hands, crossing the street without looking, talking back to teachers, and falling asleep in church.

    I discovered a new fear after learning to drive in a car without seat belts. After years of driving unbuckled across the country, the government decided we needed seat belts to protect us. I learned to fear after media showed graphic visions of the consequences of not wearing a seat belt. I was afraid to drive without a seat belt for fear I would murder myself and my passengers. (My fear was reinforced with a fine levied for not wearing a belt!)

    I faced the second greatest fear of my life when I walked into a classroom of middle school students for the first time. The greatest fear I ever faced was when I asked my sweetheart to be my wife.

    Fear surrounded me but never became part of me.

    I overcame most of my fears with knowledge, practice, and encouraging words from friends, family, and Scripture. I lived courageously in a fearful world.

    I accepted that pain, suffering, and death could be a moment away. However, I armed myself with the best safety precautions and walked confidently forward, knowing that nothing could separate me from the fellowship of the saints, the love of God, and the eternal life won for me by Jesus. Fear abounded, but I lived confidently armed with the words of Scripture, “Fear not!”

    When I received my positive COVID test, I was prepared to deal with the loss of taste, loss of smell, body aches, fever, lung congestion, and even the fatigue. Nothing prepared me for the one symptom no one talks about: fear.

    Medical professionals consistently warned, “If you get COVID, you will die.”I am old, overweight, and I have COPD, heart stints, and artificial joints. Medical professionals consistently warned, “If you get COVID, you will die.” My doctors instilled in me a fear that if I visited my grandchildren, went to the store, worshipped in my church, or flew in an airplane, my next stop would be the funeral home.

    The media and the government added to the fear as they bombarded me daily with reports about rising case numbers, hospital shortages, death rates, shelter in place orders, and mask mandates. Experts suggested that if I ventured outside without a mask I would either die or kill people. I lived in fear.

    When COVID locked me out of my church, I faced a fear crisis. I missed the fellowship of believers with whom to share my burdens and concerns. Virtual was helpful for the mind but did little for the heart that longed for the human touch, the calming words, and the reassuring hug of confidence. I lived wrapped in fear. The dark fabric of fear tore a little when I first masked up and ventured out to visit family. Each successful trip led to another. Life seemed to be brighter as my church opened, stores replenished their shelves, and I could gather with family and friends around the dinner table. The fear retreated.

    The doubt and confusion of fear returned with news that there was a vaccine! The world went crazy looking to the vaccine as a way out of the fear, but it just created more, as long lines, short supplies, and uncertainty about its effects overshadowed hope.

    As a member of one of the first groups to receive the shots, I found relief but lived with guilt. Why should I get this magic shot when my children couldn’t? I lived in fear that I would bury my children or grandchildren.

    The world shifted when everyone could receive the shots that would save lives. Fear should have diminished, but it didn’t. Fear danced on the media reports of vaccinated people getting COVID. Fear abounded in fights over mandates. Fear escalated as I watched thousands of unvaccinated workers lose their jobs. Fear caused panic, frustration, and anxiety. Fear gave rise to anger, despair, and depression.

    A few voices stood out, telling us that God is in control, we have nothing to fear, we will have food and clothing, our families will be fine, and this is only temporary. The government and media drowned out those voices, incessantly plying their messages of fear.

    Then came the day that I tested positive for COVID.

    The fear in my heart was greater than when the doctor had told me I had cancer. After he had given me a cancer diagnosis, the next words were all about treatment plans, survival rates, and having a positive outlook. When I told my doctor I had tested positive for COVID, the next words were that I should stay home and wait for the inevitable. The COVID diagnosis hit hard. No words of treatment plans or survival rates hit harder. I was afraid to tell family and friends, for I didn’t want to add to their fear. I felt isolated, a pariah, ashamed.

    Fear dominated—for a season. One night I hit the fear head on. I started by listing what I was afraid of: death, suffering, pain, and the impact my illness would have on my wife and family. Then I destroyed the fear with the words of comfort found in the Scriptures. It seemed too simple. I took my Bible, and God laid His Word on my heart, with verses such as these:

    • …for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control 2 Timothy 1:7 (ESV).
    • There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear 1 John 4:18 (ESV).
    • Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow Matthew 6:34 (ESV).
    • For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.” Isaiah 41:13 (ESV).
    • He said, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them” 2 Kings 6:16 (ESV).


    It worked, as fear dissolved in the light of God’s Word.


    Now that I have survived COVID, I can say firsthand that:


    1. I didn’t die.
    2. The symptoms were no worse than when I had a bad cold or flu.
    3. My breathing was labored but manageable.
    4. If I had never taken the COVID test, I would never have had the fear. I would have isolated myself like I always do with a cold. I would have rested, taken fluids and meds, but there would have been no fear.

    I succumbed to the fear, which I should not have and will not again. No longer will I let the government, media, friends, or family instill in me fear over COVID.

    • What role does peer pressure and the media play in creating fear?
    • What tools do you use to manage your fear? How can your students and friends use these tools?
    • What happens to fear when people cannot physically be together? Does “virtual” solve or create fears? Why or why not?

    I know that it is a real disease. I know that it can wreak havoc on the body, especially one already compromised. I know that it causes fear. I know that fear is real. I know that fear is dangerous. And I know that fear disappears when confronted with God’s Words of hope, promise, joy, and love. King David reminds us in Psalm 45:3–4 (ESV):

    When I am afraid,
        I put my trust in you.
    In God, whose word I praise,
        In God I trust; I shall not be afraid.
        What can flesh do to me?

    Fear not!

    Richard Cohrs is a commissioned minister, emeritus, who enjoys living a challenging, rewarding, and fulfilling life without fear, accompanied by the heart of his heart, Carol.

    Photo © iStock/DrAfter123

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