I traveled to Vietnam in January 2020, planning to teach English for a few months. However, shortly after I began teaching, the first coronavirus cases were reported and schools were closed. As my fellow teachers and I processed this turn of events and discussed what we would do, it was easy to feel afraid. I was on the other side of the world from my family and friends, and I didn’t know what to expect in the coming days and weeks. Several teachers decided to leave Vietnam, but I chose to stay, even though I felt deeply unsettled about what was happening.
After a couple of weeks of letting fear take the reins, I was tired of feeling vulnerable and overwhelmed. I no longer wanted to be distracted and knew I needed to specifically address my fear of uncertainty and contagion. I had to make a decision: Would I let fear continue to control me, or would I take a stand against it, with God?
When we are presented with disturbing images and fearful suggestions, we have divine guidance from God to “fear not: for I am with thee” (Isaiah 43:5). This doesn’t mean to act foolishly, but to listen for Love’s guidance in order to act in the most loving and intelligent way possible, which is naturally free from fear. I love how Mary Baker Eddy explains in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures why we don’t have to be afraid: “Human sense may well marvel at discord, while, to a diviner sense, harmony is the real and discord the unreal. We may well be astonished at sin, sickness, and death. We may well be perplexed at human fear; and still more astounded at hatred, which lifts its hydra head, showing its horns in the many inventions of evil. But why should we stand aghast at nothingness?” (p. 563). This passage helped me see with a “diviner sense” that there is only one reality: God and Her spiritual, harmonious creation. Nothing material can have any power over Spirit.
I had to make a decision: Would I let fear continue to control me, or would I take a stand against it?
I also prayed with passages from the Bible about living in the safety of God. I turned to these words from Psalm 91 again and again: “Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation; there shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling. For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways” (verses 9–11). Affirming that we all “dwell in the house of the Lord for ever” (Psalms 23:6) and that we “live, and move, and have our being” in God (Acts 17:28) helped me reclaim a calmer, clearer, healing perspective. During this time, I found comfort in reading the Bible Lessons from the Christian Science Quarterly and listening to the Sunday and Wednesday online church services from The Mother Church. I took some time to really feel my closeness to God.
To cement my prayers about safety, I refused to entertain fear for myself and the world. I placed my confidence completely in God, who can only protect and care for Her creation. Sticking with these ideas brought me peace and allowed me to let go of all the fear I had been holding on to.
I tangibly felt that we were all safe in God’s care.
I remained in Vietnam for several months, and once schools reopened, I was able to teach English as I had hoped. I also felt God’s guidance as I found a better place to stay while in the country. When I traveled within the country, I relied on God for my safety and direction. During my trip home to the United States, the airport staff and my fellow travelers consistently expressed patience, calmness, and understanding. I tangibly felt that we were all safe in God’s care. I’m very thankful for the harmony I experienced every step of the way during my time away and my travels.
I continue to hold to the fact that God is All and the only power, no matter how big the pandemic and other world issues seem. A traditional American spiritual helps remind me that I can place my trust entirely in God: “He’s got the whole world in His hands.” God’s goodness can never fail, and the kingdom of heaven is right here and now, wherever we are. God is always ready to console and guide us out of fear into comfort and healing.
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