COVID-19 seems to be on almost everyone’s mind. Virtually all media is currently pre-occupied with news and updates on the COVID-19 pandemic. The latest virus death rates for whole countries are updated daily, unintended and growing daily consequences from the lockdowns are reported hourly, famine in some poorer countries seems likely, talks of long-term economic ruin equal to or perhaps worse than the Depression of the 1930s are emerging. Conflicting scientific reports, conspiracy theories, politically motivated reports and more add to the “confusion and chaos” when clarity and truth are most needed. Understandably, most people are experiencing varying levels of stress, anxiety, depression and related mental health issues, all of which can lead to panic. Quarantine and self-isolation are the “new norm” for now, yet loneliness long-term is a health hazard. How can you live with good mental health and hope in this time? How can you overcome the “pandemic panic”? There is a way!
First and foremost, maintain the right focus, this is critical. If we spend an inordinate amount of time following the internet, TV and other media about COVID-19 we can soon feel ourselves going into a sort of “downward spiral”. It can become self-absorbing, a kind of “obsession out of apparent necessity”. Staying informed is one thing, but occupying our minds to the degree that we start losing sleep is altogether different. Here’s the crux: we unwittingly focus on the immensity, the global impact, the lethality, the massive implications of this virus as if it has become the greatest force in the world. Along with many others, whether intentional or not, we ascribe great power to this virus which has caused world leaders to shut down entire economies. With such a focus, of course, fear and panic reign supreme. In a very strange way, that I expect no one really intends, this all leads to a form of “negative worship” that takes us spiritually down.
The goal of worship is to ascribe power, majesty, allegiance, deep gratitude and thankfulness to a higher power in one’s life – the true ultimate focus. The solution is now obvious: overcome the pandemic fear and panic with true focus, with worship of the Lord who maintains this universe each and every millisecond. As we focus on the Lord of the universe who alone is majestic, powerful and mighty we will move out of self-absorption to a clearer, positive, upward looking spiritual vision. Our hearts and minds will truly lift. This is one of the reasons that true worship of the Living God is immensely healing and the most potent cure for narcissism. As we meditate and reflect on the Lord, as we worship Him, then the anxiety, fear and panic diminish. Psalm 121:1-2 is one of numerous passages in Scripture that we can focus on “I lift my eyes to the hills – where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth”. Or Psalm 8:9 “Lord, O Lord, how majestic is you name in all the earth!” Isaiah 41:10 is another reaffirming verse “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.“
Secondly, invite the Lord into the midst of your very real challenges and needs. Maybe you have lost your job, or you own a business that is on the verge of bankruptcy, or a family member is seriously ill with COVID-19, or your elective surgery for cancer was postponed or you think you have discovered a tumor in your body and cannot see your doctor, or you wonder about meeting your mortgage payments — the list goes on. These are all very real concerns and cannot be trivialized. But not only is the Lord of Heaven and Earth majestic and powerful, He wants to meet your needs and demonstrate His grace to you. Look again at Psalm 121 “… He will not let your foot slip — He who watches over you will not slumber …. The Lord watches over you — the Lord is your shade at your right hand … The Lord will keep you from all harm — He will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forever more.“
You might wonder — why does “God allow evil and pandemics?” Yes, there are many theological and philosophical questions one can rightly ask. However, they probably won’t meet your emotional needs in the current situation. We experience deep needs in our concrete, all too real situations. God knew the pandemic was coming, it did not take Him by surprise. But most important is that He knows your needs and emotions intimately. Answers are great, but a Presence is far better!
We need peace to replace fear and panic. Peace seems to be “in short supply” in the world. Jesus’ words from John 14:27 become most relevant these days “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid“. We all need a peace that transcends the world and does not depend upon the world. Like many other people of faith, I know Jesus’ words to be true and trustworthy, having survived cancer, almost certain death in a highway accident in Syria and knowing Father God’s care for me in so many ways. What I am writing about is not willpower, psychological technique, or behaviour modification but rather, practising the Presence of the Living God who is calling people unto Himself. As you commit all your very real concerns and worries to Him, the anxiety level decreases.
Thirdly, live each day with wisdom. We pray for the vaccine and antibody testing research, encourage our medical professionals, pray for our leaders who face some hard decisions, take whatever action needed for our business or jobs. We apply for whatever government programs that we rightly qualify, take health and safety precautions and so forth. One day at a time.
To conclude, we ultimately focus on the Lord of the Universe and worship Him alone, invite His presence into our life and all its decisions in these trying times and seek His wisdom daily. And yes, walk your dog with joy and if you feel the compulsion, see about extra toilet paper.