A Risk-Averse Society

In my adult life, I have seen our society become less and less able to handle the ordinary risks of life. I am neither recommending recklessness nor minimizing pain when unfortunate things happen, but I do believe Western culture has come to expect something that doesn’t exist: an absolute guarantee that life will not hurt us.

Even when people have acted foolishly, they sue for injuries. The government demands ridiculous and costly features on products to ensure no one will get hurt. We ask our military to wage war, yet we put soldiers under such restrictive protocols that they are afraid to shoot. We live under oppressive regulations and prohibitions in order to insulate the public from all possibility of harm.

While I have opinions on why some might want to stoke fear for political gain, I’ll refrain from voicing them. I do want to warn, however, that the fearful mind is a byproduct of a lack of trust in God.

When one examines Bible history, God commonly asks His servants to take great risks in achieving His purposes. It is nigh impossible to fully grasp what God asked Abraham to do in leaving his homeland and leading his family on a pilgrimage to Canaan. Moses’ task of confronting the most powerful man on earth and prying a slave nation from his hands was so daunting that he protested vigorously at the outset.

From the time David slew Goliath until his accession to the throne David lived as a fugitive, lamenting to Jonathan, “There is but a step between me and death” (I Sam. 20:3). Paul’s account of his suffering in II Cor .11:23-28 leaves us wondering how anyone could survive such an ordeal, much less successfully start churches across the Roman Empire. On the stories go: Joseph, Joshua, Elijah, Jeremiah, Daniel.

It is easy to quasi-fictionalize these characters and thereby rob them of their humanity. The reality: They had the same anxieties, insecurities, desire for self-preservation, concern for their families, fear of the unknown, etc., as we do. Abraham lied; Moses balked; Joshua crumpled at the first setback in Canaan; David hid with the Philistines; Elijah threw in the towel; Jeremiah complained. But at the end of the day, their faith was stronger than their fear, and they accepted the challenge the Lord placed before them along with its risks.

Not to exaggerate, but it may be that some aspects of our relatively carefree lifestyle are endangered. The trend of Western culture is against the free exercise of Christianity. We are currently being warned of the long-term risks of the coronavirus. We must weigh the conflicting voices, assess the risks, rely on God’s strength, guidance and protection and serve Him faithfully, whatever it may cost us personally.

And may we remember God’s exhortation to Joshua: “This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous. ... Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Josh. 1:8-9).