The coronavirus pandemic has caused disruptions in our lives at a level not experienced for generations. As a counselor, I have recently heard people describe feeling paralyzed, paranoid, hopeless, fearful about the future, in search of peace and in some stage of panic.
The fact is, this is a threat that cannot be solved by strategic military prowess or fixed by a quick medical discovery. COVID-19 has caused us to face feelings of uncertainty and loss of control. As Christians, we live by faith, yet enjoy the security of knowing that God has given us control over our daily choices. When a crisis disturbs the daily details of our lives, it often shakes our faith in ways that cause anxiety.
I believe there are four key strategies of the Spirit that will help you and your family cope during this trying time.
First, we have an opportunity to learn how to hand situations over to the Lord; things that He has not given us the responsibility to fix or control. God gives us wisdom and strategies to be proactive in ways that can help protect us and our family members. For example, it is wise to use the proper disinfectants. Those who have low immunity should take extra precautions.
However, there are a lot of issues over which we do not have control, such as how long the crisis with its limitations will last, the economic fallout, or even if we might be exposed to the virus. These areas that God has not placed within our control are issues that we should daily hand over to Him. We can do this in a tangible way by lifting outstretched hands to the Lord and verbalize our concern to a God who does have control.
The apostle Paul tells us, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6). Giving those circumstances that we cannot control over to a God who hung the stars in the sky and knows the beginning from the end can relieve an anxious heart.
we have an opportunity to learn how to trust God in this moment
Second, we have an opportunity to learn how to trust God in this moment. Most anxiety is a result of worrying about past issues or a fear of tomorrow. In counseling, we use a principle called grounding to remain in the moment. For instance, listening to Scripture while imagining being in a safe place that brings comfort helps to remain in the now.
Psalm 23 is a perfect go-to verse for this. We can use our God-given senses to focus on the present moment, whether that be watching the sun rise, listening to rain or worship music, or smelling fresh air coming in through the window. Remaining in the present can significantly decrease anxiety. Matthew 6 tells us to not worry about what to eat or wear, but rather to seek first the kingdom of God and all our needs will be met, “therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself” (Matt. 6:34).
What a challenge! Our omnipotent Father has tomorrow in His hands. We just need to remain in the present and in His presence, believing He already has tomorrow figured out.
Third, during this season we can enter into a time of rest and prayer. In all of our doing, often we forget how to just be in Him. Now is an opportunity to slow down and spend time listening to what the Holy Spirit is trying to say to the Church and to us as His children.
We get so busy doing ministry, raising a family, and working toward our goals that we forget how God wants to fellowship with us. This crisis provides an opportunity to hang out with God and connect with him in a greater way!
It is not a lack of faith to share your turbulent emotions with God.
The more we listen to Him, the more productive our doing will be. Express to the Lord all your array of emotions about this crisis. Your fears, anger, stress, and frustrations are not too much for a big, understanding Father who desires for us to lean on Him during this difficult time. It is not a lack of faith to share your turbulent emotions with God. During this time of rest, allow the Holy Spirit to speak to you in a deeper way, worshipping the One who allows us to serve Him. James 4:8 says, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to You.” He wants to comfort His Church and reassure us that He has it all under control.
Fourth, and lastly, we have an opening to connect to those who may not be as blessed as us. Scripture reminds us in Galatians 6:2 to “bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” We will have occasions to help those who need us the most: the elderly, maybe a single mom who needs a baby sitter while her kids are out of school and she continues to work, perhaps a lonely widow who needs a phone call, or a family that has run out of food. The opportunity to meet felt needs during a time of crisis shows our faith in action.
Speaker and writer Bob Goff said, “The world will figure out what we really believe, by watching what we actually do.” During this emergency, the Church has an opportunity to meet practical needs in a way that will show the love of Jesus when people need it the most. Don’t be so caught up in the anxiety of the moment that you miss the opportunity to love those who need someone.
In summary, relinquish control to the Lord, remain in the present, connect with the Father, and look for ways to meet the needs around you. I do not believe God created the coronavirus, but I do know that God uses calamities to give the Church opportunity to depend on Him in a greater way and show His love to a lost, anxious, and desperate world looking for the hope we can give. Cast all your cares onto a God who has everything under control.
–Jeff Gray is a clinician at Emerge Counseling Ministries in Akron, Ohio. He is a licensed Assemblies of God minister. The AG HelpLine, an anonymous 1-800 counseling support service for AG ministers and their families, is staffed by Emerge counselors. If you need to talk, you can reach the HelpLine at 800-867-4011. Visit Emerge at emerge.org.