The British comedy series ‘Dad’s Army’ told the story of the Home Guard in England during the Second World War. The Home Guard consisted of local volunteers who were otherwise ineligible for military service, either because of age or by being in professions exempt from conscription, and the series regularly focussed on the ineptitude of these men (led by Captain Mainwaring, a pompous but brave and patriotic bank manager.)
I grew up watching and loving this series which poked fun at many institutions and reminded us that bravery comes in many shapes and sizes. There were two catchphrases I particularly associate with the series: Corporal Jack Jones’ flustered ‘Don’t panic! Don’t panic, Captain Mainwaring!‘ as he inevitably panicked and Private James Frazer, a dour Scottish undertaker, the epitome of pessimism, whose catchphrase was ‘We’re doomed! Doomed!’
It feels like we’re living in doomed times at the moment. The pandemic caused by the coronavirus has transformed our lives, leaving people fearful, uncertain and on the edge of a precipice which seems inevitably to lead to doom. The message that shouts at us from headlines and news broadcasts on a daily basis seems to be Frazer’s message: ‘We’re doomed! Doomed!’
How do we respond to this daily bombardment of negativity and pessimism, which pelts us more furiously and relentlessly than any hailstone storm? How can we have hope when everyone is telling us we’re doomed?
For the Christian, we must resist the scare-mongering, fear-inducing tactics of government, media and any other source – and John tells us how: perfect love casts out fear. (1 John 4:18) There is no place for fear in our hearts if they are filled with the love of God. We don’t need to fear the ‘invisible mugger’ of coronavirus because our God is more powerful and is in sovereign control, even if we must journey through illness, sorrow and loss. As we allow God’s love to fill our hearts, fear has to go.
Secondly, we have hope, despite all the modelling predictions, worst-case scenarios and restrictions seen as the only answers. We have hope in God, even when our situations look hopeless and desperate. Open the Bible at just about any page and we see God doing impossible things: healing people, rescuing people, raising the dead to life, delivering people from evil. That God is our God. Even during sieges and exile, God’s people had hope. (Lam 3) Jeremiah faced affliction, wandering, bitterness and gall, and yet spoke about hope:
“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” (Lam 3:22-23)
“No one is cast off by the Lord forever. Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love.” (Lam 3:31-32)
“Who can speak and have it happen if the Lord has not decreed it?” (Lam 3:37)
We may feel as ramshackle an army as Dad’s Army, as ineffective and incompetent as that motley crew. But ultimately the gates of hell will not prevail against the church (Matt 16:18) and God’s purposes will not be thwarted. (Job 42:2) Ultimately, we are not doomed if we are on God’s side, for He will have the final word. That’s why we can live with hope and confidence even in these dark times.