Is It Here to Stay?

“The virus is never going away.” I just read that statement in an article and felt chills run down my back—not from the virus, but from the dread. Fortunately, a vaccine will be developed, and world citizens will learn how to live with it, just like we have with the normal flu. Still, I’m weary—coronaweary. And you probably are, too. So, what do we do about it? Most of us can’t help with vaccine research, but we can take specific steps in our own lives that will help us cope. In previous articles, I addressed coping with this challenge spiritually and emotionally. Today, I’d like to address one more area: physically.

I’d rather skip the medical precautions we’ve all heard about daily since mid-March: six feet apart, masks, etc. My concern right now is to think about what physical challenges are we experiencing because of our spiritual and emotional struggle, and what can we do about it?

Sometimes, the most spiritual thing we can do is take a nap. I hesitate to say that because a lot of lazy people in our country need not be such sloths, but many Americans are burning the candle at both ends. Rest is an important part of our physical, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing. At one time, doctors viewed sleep problems as symptoms of some forms of mental illness, but now, they recognize it as a possible cause. A representative from Harvard Medical School wrote, “Neuroimaging and neurochemistry studies suggest that a good night’s sleep helps foster both mental and emotional resilience, while chronic sleep deprivation sets the stage for negative thinking and emotional vulnerability.”

Since I’m beating the health drum, I should also underscore our need for exercise. Most Americans are fat! Okay, it’s easier to take if I say we are health challenged, not reaching our weight indicators, or at worse, overweight. 

God made us to move, and when we don’t move, we suffer. I know 1 Timothy 4:8 is some people’s life verse (“exercise profits little”), but Paul was comparing it to disciplines leading to godliness. And let’s face it, Paul walked everywhere he went. I suppose if we walked five to ten miles a day as a normal course, we wouldn’t need more exercise either. We cannot be at our spiritual, emotional, and physical best without exercise. We don’t like to admit it, but overeating and general unhealthy living is a sin. Being healthy is one of the greatest stress defeaters available to us, and it doesn’t cost anything to walk a brisk two miles in the morning.

Do you want to pull yourself out of the coronaduldrums? Go take a walk or a nap…and lay off the fast-food while you’re at it.

Emotionally Healthy or Coronaweary?

It’s easy to become overwhelmed by the challenges presented by coronavirus and be tempted to crawl into a hole somewhere until next spring. The pandemic has caused a serious physical health condition for some people, and it’s affecting a lot of people’s emotional well-being. Emotional strength comes from a variety of places, but it’s not always replenished automatically. Emotional fortitude can be threatened by stress, trauma, sorrow, and loss. Fear, loneliness, and burnout can also threaten our emotional wellness. What do we do about it?

Working on our emotional health is just as important as staying in good physical condition. Our bodies are the temple of God, which includes our emotions. The Bible says, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name.” It’s difficult to bless the Lord with your emotions when you are emotionally unhealthy.

The Bible addresses being emotionally healthy. For example, Philippians 4:6-7 tells us not to worry about anything but pray about everything, and Proverbs 17:22 says, “A joyful heart is good medicine.” I’d like to mention a few things we can do to find emotional strength during challenging times.

  1. Exercise – Doctors tell us that regular exercise is helpful for our emotional well-being. It reduces stress and enhances our perspective. What can you do to add ten minutes of exercise to your day?
  2. Meditation – I’m not thinking of mysticism or eastern religions. I’m considering biblical passages where we are called to ponder the truths of God’s Word and open our minds to the voice of God. Consider passages like Joshua 1:8 and Psalms 1:2. The Psalmist told us to be still and know God (Psalm 46:10) and Philippians 4:8 offers a list of things that should occupy our minds.
  3. Community – The bottom line is that God made us for relationships, and our relationships provide fertile ground that strengthens our emotional health. The Bible gives us 59 “One Another Commands,” which requires us to be in meaningful relationships with other people. I think that one reason God commands us to love one another, for example, is that He knows that we are the beneficiaries of such love. I think you’ll find all of the one another commands replenish your emotions. Proverbs 27:9 tells us that the sweetness of friendship refreshes the soul.
  4. Service – Although serving others is one of the one another commands, I want to emphasize how serving others really replenishes our emotional well-being. Serving helps us to take our minds off of ourselves and think about others. It gives us a fresh perspective and helps us to plug into God’s purpose for our lives.
  5. Laughter – Proverbs 15:13 says that a glad heart makes a cheerful face. Ninety-seven-year-old actor, Carl Reiner, told the Washington Post, “Laughter is my first priority. I watch something every night that makes me laugh. I wake up and tickle myself while I’m still in bed. There is no greater pleasure than pointing at something, smiling and laughing about it. I don’t think there is anything more important than being able to laugh.” I’m not sure I’d agree that nothing is more important than laughing, but laughter might make my top twenty most important things to do.
  6. Worship – Even as worship strengthens us spiritually, it also fortifies us emotionally. It’s amazing what focusing on God can do for our personal well-being; after all, loving God is an emotional experience. An article published by the AARP links regular worship to lower rates of depression. Scientists tell us that singing releases endorphins in our system that encourages joy and hope. Psalm 42:11 calls us to declare God’s praise in times of emotional struggle, and we will find hope in God.

What will you do to exercise, meditate, make a friend, serve others, laugh, and worship? Your emotional health is waiting for a boost.

Coronaweary

I’m coronaweary, and I have a feeling you are too. I’m not saying that we’re tired of coronavirus, though we probably are. I am saying that we’re weary because of the overload this pandemic has caused. I feel hesitant to make this declaration because some people have gotten the virus and even died with it, so my weariness doesn’t compare. At the same time, there are a lot of people working many hours and dealing with stressful conditions because of the impact of Covid-19. You may be feeling the stress simply because you can’t spend time with your family or friends like you used to or maybe just wearing a mask all of the time is starting to get to you. You may be overloaded because your job is considered “essential,” and you are working a lot of extra hours. So, what do we do about it?

I’d like to suggest three areas in your life that need care: spiritual, emotional, and physical. I’d like to address a prescription for coronaweariness over the next few blogs. First, let’s address our spiritual needs.

We are spiritual beings, so everything about our lives has an impact on our spiritual nature. How do you replenish your soul? Psalm 42:10 says, “Be still and know that I am God.” Time with God is the only soul replenisher I know. Time with God should include reading His Word and prayer, but we can also experience God through things like meditation upon God’s Word, community with Christian friends, and reflecting upon God’s nature.

One of the greatest experiences for a follower of Jesus is worship. Through worship, we focus on God’s nature and not our issues. Our sole focus in worship is God and not ourselves. Other than God’s prompting about dealing with anything in ourselves that is not Christlike, our attention is solely on the One who loves us and gave Himself for us. Worship is like leaving the smog-filled city and taking a breath of fresh air from atop a tall mountain in the middle of the wilderness. It’s refreshing and invigorating. It gives us a great perspective and reminds us that God is great and more than sufficient to meet our every need.The first step to overcoming coronaweariness is to change your focus. Look up. Our help comes from above. Pray, worship, read Scripture, and love God with all of your heart. It’s better than two aspirin and a phone call in the morning.

(Photo by Jen Theodore on Unsplash)

15 Days of Faith – Day 1

We are living in unprecedented times. You may have seen President Trump’s press conference yesterday or heard of the suggestions coming from his task force dealing with the spread of the Covid-19 virus. They are asking all Americans to make some dramatic changes for the next 15 days in order to curb the effect and spread of this virus. 

I know that reports over the last week or so have spread great fear across our country. If you don’t know someone who has been infected with the virus now, you possibly will in the future. Some patients are in serious condition. I know of a woman in her 30’s on a ventilator right now. This threat is serious. It would be easy for us to be filled with fear right now, but God wants us to choose faith.

Over the next 15 days, I’m going to share thoughts of encouragement and challenge us to embrace faith. I encourage you to share your comments and help me spread a message of hope.

The Bible has a lot to say about faith. The book of Galatians says we are justified by faith and we are to live by faith. Think about those two ideas. Your sins cannot be forgiven and you cannot enjoy a right relationship with God without placing your faith and your trust in Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins. Secondly, as a Christian, your life should be defined by faith. It would do us well during these times to think about what it means to live by faith. It means that our mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional strength comes from the Lord. It means that every step we take, we do so because we are fully trusting in Jesus.

I’ve got a song on my mind, and it would do us well to allow it to be the theme song of this coronavirus season. It was written around 1880 after Louisa Stead experienced a personal tragedy that could have destroyed her. Louisa, her husband, and her 4-year-old daughter were on a picnic near sea. They heard shouts for help and saw a boy struggling in the ocean. Louisa’s husband raced into the ocean to save the boy only to be pulled under and drowned. She grieved over the loss of her husband. After struggling with  sorrow asking God, “Why?” many times, she eventually penned the words to this beloved hymn:

Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just to take Him at His Word
Just to rest upon His promise,
Just to know, “Thus saith the Lord!”

Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him!
How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er
Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus!
Oh, for grace to trust Him more!

I shared a video on YouTube with additional thoughts for today. You can view it by clicking this link.

Cry for Hope

“That’s depressing.” Have you ever said those two words? I’ve watched U.S. politics lately and found myself frustrated, angry, and discouraged. I may have even said that certain events or reactions have been “depressing.” As we move toward what seems like an all-out war between presidential candidates, I find myself shaking my head and dreading the next year. While events may get me down, am I really depressed?

Over seven percent of American adults will experience depression this year and fifteen percent will struggle with depression at some point in their lives. Over three million young people between the ages of twelve and seventeen have experienced at least one depressive episode this year. Sadly, I think we’ll see these numbers growing in the years to come. Why? Why are we struggling with depression as a culture?

Depression can come from a variety of places in a person’s life. It may result from chemical imbalances, physical or emotional trauma, or cultural challenges. Regardless of its source, depression is both promoted by and fed from feelings of hopelessness. While counselors can offer several solutions, one key solution is hope. I’m so grateful for gifted therapists and counselors, and I am most grateful for the God of all hope.

The great news I have is that we find hope in Jesus Christ. God spoke words of encouragement to a troubled nation in Jeremiah 29:11. These words also have great application to us today: “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”

Do you struggle with depression today? As you reach out for hope, I encourage you to reach out to God. He will walk with you through your darkness to help you find the brightness of His presence.