learning from middle east Christians on faith amid fear

As countries battle to contain the coronavirus pandemic, Christians around the world are processing what it means to have faith in this new reality. As part of SAT-7’s efforts to be a spiritual lifeline at this time, Lebanese Christian leaders spoke on a live show on 20 March, sharing encouragement relevant not only for SAT-7 ARABIC viewers, but for believers everywhere who may be dealing with fear and anxiety.

While the crisis presents uncharted waters for all, many Christian leaders in the Middle East know what it is to believe and lead in times of danger, for example from civil conflict or persecution.

Presenter Milad Hadchiti (centre) with guests Rev. Charbel Malak (left) and Fr Michel Abboud (right)

During the live program In the Secret Place of the Most High, hosted by Milad Hadchiti, viewers heard informed guidance from Rev. Dr Charbel Malak and Fr Michel Abboud, National President of Caritas-Lebanon, along with SAT-7 CEO Rita El-Mounayer, who spoke from personal experience. Here are some of their insightful words, which we pray will encourage you as they did the SAT-7 viewers who watched.

How can we experience God’s love in these difficult times?
Rev. Charbel Malak

“Look to the cross. Jesus Himself suffered during His time on earth. He was a refugee as a baby. He was hungry, thirsty, mocked, and alone. ‘For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted’ (Hebrews 2:18). You are not alone in difficult times. Jesus is with you, walking with you and supporting you. Hold on to Him and don’t leave Him.” – Rev. Charbel Malak

“One must grow in faith by spending time with the Lord every day, not just reciting prayers and thinking that you have ‘done your homework’. Live the Word of God in the Bible.” – Fr Michel Abboud

Faith through the questions

“During the Syrian-Lebanese war, I was in the middle of a battle and was taken for 24 hours. It was so difficult for me, but God protected me. Someone who was dear to me died in front of me. My natural reaction was to question God because of that. I felt guilty because I was alive, and my friend was dead.

“But in our personal relationship with God, He speaks to each one of us differently. If we understood Him, then He would not be God. The apostle Paul said, ‘For now we see through a glass, darkly, but later we will see Him clearly and understand Him.’

“God is not my ATM machine or only a healer. Whether I am safe from coronavirus or infected by it, I pray to God because I love Him, and He is with me. Whether I am ill or healthy, He is with me.” – Rita El-Mounayer

Dealing with fear
Fr Michel Abboud

“In the Bible, God tells us not to fear 365 times. Fear in faith is different from natural human fear. Don’t try God [by not heeding guidelines], but take all your precautions and then leave it to Him. Faith doesn’t remove problems or illnesses, but it gives us the power to handle them.” – Abboud

“Fear must not control us or steal our peace. Jesus gave us His peace. As Christians we must have peace. ‘And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus’ (Philippians 4:7).” – Malak

Follow guidelines, spread hope

“As a believing Christian I must be subject to worldly authorities. It’s not faith to disobey their decisions against gatherings. We must be cautious, but we must also show our hope in God as Christians. We aren’t afraid of death from the coronavirus or other reasons, because we have faith in eternal life. The good in every trial is to bring us closer to the image of Christ.”  – Malak

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