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 15

Choosing faith is a life-long pursuit. We sometimes relegate Christianity to only a choice in time. Don’t get me wrong. It begins with a choice in time, and once you choose Jesus, you are His. However, I want us to understand that Christianity is also a daily choice of following Jesus. Salvation has not only a past tense where we were saved from the penalty of sin, but it also has a present tense where we are being saved from the power of sin in our lives and a future tense where we will one day be saved from the presence of sin.

Faith can also be viewed in three tenses: we had faith that saved us, we have faith that is delivering us, and we will have faith that will transport us into the presence of Almighty God.

How do we keep choosing faith? First Timothy 6:11-12 offers the solution: “But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.”

Look at the three commands of this passage: flee, pursue, and fight. Flee from something that is hindering your walk with Christ, pursue everything that strengthens your relationship with Christ, and fight anything that is threatening your victory in Christ.

Do you see a common thread with each of the three commands? Flee, pursue, and fight all call for intensity, effort, and commitment. If you’re going to really trust Jesus, you need to be all in! Just testing the water doesn’t work in Christianity. Giving God one day a week or two days a month is not real Christianity. True faith, saving faith, is 110%.

I urge you to jump into the deep end of the pool. Go after Jesus with everything in you, and you’ll find that He’s already given everything to go after you.

I share some more about this topic on today’s 15 Days of Faith video.

15 Days of Faith – Day 11

Anxiety or worry is almost as normal as breathing. However, God commands us not to be afraid. We saw in yesterday’s blog the Word of God tells us that worry is actually a sin. What do we do about it? Well, we saw we should pray about everything and worry about nothing. Today we’ll back up a couple of verses from yesterday’s scripture:

Philippians 4:4, “Rejoice in the Lord, always; again, I say rejoice.”

In today’s video, I share a wonderful definition of joy. I hope you’ll watch it. I’d like to focus this blog on a six-letter word in this verse: always. God says that we are to always rejoice. Really? Is God serious? Yes! He says that we can choose to find joy in every circumstance. How is that possible?

It’s possible when we believe and accept the fact that God is always in control. The Bible tells us that He is sovereign. This means that God is in charge and worthy of my trust and devotion. I can choose joy when I choose to trust God and know that He is working for my good and His glory. I may not be able to understand all of the details or be able to figure out the solution to my situation, but I can have the confidence to know that God is at work in my life. I encourage you to choose joy.

You can watch today’s video on 15 Days of Faith – Day 11 here.

You may also enjoy listening to a song written by Aaron Keyes that my son’s worship team recently recorded on video. You can find it here.

15 Days of Faith – Day 9

God is unique and creative. He doesn’t always do things the same way, and He doesn’t usually do things the way I would do them. Has God ever surprised you with a strategy to solve a problem? Throughout history, God has used unique ways to address challenges. I spoke of one of those times in today’s video, and the story is recorded in Joshua 6. It was God’s strategy to defeat Jericho. God told Joshua: “You shall march around the city, all the men of war circling the city once. You shall do so for six days. Also, seven priests shall carry seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark; then on the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets” (Josh 6:3-4).

You’re probably familiar with the story and know that God’s plan worked. The walls fell down and Jericho was defeated. Why did it work? It worked because God did it. God gave Joshua a crazy strategy because He wanted Israel to know that He would always fight their battles for them.

This is an important word for us today. God will always fight our battles for us. We can trust Him. This truth means that we need to keep our eyes on the Lord and follow Him. Trust Him even when we don’t see how things will turn out. God may not address a situation the way we would but trust Him anyway. God’s got it! God can handle it! Trust in the Lord.

15 Days of Faith – Day 5

I don’t know many people who like being tested. I used to think that if I ever got out of school, I’d never have to take another test in my life. Boy, was I wrong. I have an oral report I give every Sunday (called a sermon), turn in an annual report of my finances to the IRS, submit reports and updates to ministry leaders in my church, and I have to go to the doctor for physicals and the dentist for checkups. Tests are a part of life.

The Bible says that God tests our faith. In today’s video, I speak briefly about why our faith is tested, but I want to write for a moment about how it’s tested. Usually, when something is tested, pressure is asserted. It may be mental pressure, like a student in school, or physical pressure, like an athlete on the football field. You’ll find that in spiritual testing, pressure is also applied to our lives.

I don’t want to say that God initiates all of the pressure on us for the testing of our faith, but I know that God uses it. Sometimes, our faith is tested because someone else acts out their brokenness and we get injured as collateral damage. Everyone is broken by sin. People act like broken people because of sin, and those actions can cause a lot of pain and struggle in other people’s lives. Although God is not the cause of those actions, He always harnesses an opportunity to grow us into the likeness of His Son. Do you remember David in the Old Testament? One of the great tests of his life came from his own son’s rebellion.

We may be tested by physical struggle. This struggle could come in the form of sickness or financial struggle. Again, God doesn’t always cause these issues, but He uses them to grow us and shape us. Job fell into this category. The Apostle Paul also had a physical struggle. We don’t know what it was, but we do know that he asked God to remove it from him on three different occasions. Here’s how God responded to Paul’s request, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” (2 Cor. 12:9).

Paul learned that being weakened or even broken was not necessarily a bad thing. God’s power grows in our brokenness.

The Bible says that God has a purpose for our testing, and the bottom line is that it’s always for our good. Testing matures us and strengthens us. It helps us to know ourselves and teaches us how to depend upon God.

Are you being tested now? Cry out to God. Learn from God during this time and let Him work in your life. One day you’ll see that you will come through the fire and survive the struggle. You’ll find that you are stronger in the Lord than before and more equipped mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually to serve the Lord.

In the meantime, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials,       knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4).

Watch today’s video by clicking this link.

15 Days of Faith – Day 4

What does it mean to fix your mind on something? Have you ever had a problem you needed to solve, and you thought about it continuously throughout the day? I remember a serious problem I had a few years ago, and there seemed to be no solution. I pondered the issue for days. I awakened one night with the solution. For starters, I believe God gave me the solution, but it all came about because my mind was fixed upon it (and I prayed fervently about it).

Isaiah 26:3 says, “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!” For starters, I like the idea of perfect peace. God’s Word is 100% true, and it says perfect peace is a possibility. The Hebrew literally says, “peace, peace” — a double load of peace. It was a Hebrew idiom or way of saying something is complete.

Do you see the word “keep” in that scripture? It means to “secure or guard as with a garrison.” God says He is going to stand guard over those who fix their minds on Him and fully trust Him. It reminds me of another passage found in the New Testament:

Philippians 4:6-7 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Do you want “peace, peace,” perfect peace? Keep your mind fixed on God. How do you do that? I suggest first to fill your mind with Scripture. Meditate on the Word of God throughout the day. Sing songs of worship that magnify God and praise His name. Pray without ceasing. Talk to God all day long about what’s going on in your life and in the world. Christianity is a relationship to be experienced not a program to attend.

If you fix your mind on God, he will set up a guard over your heart and your mind. You will find a peace that is mind-blowing and soul healing.

I invite you to watch my video for additional thoughts as you choose daily to keep your mind fixed upon God.

15 Days of Faith – Day 3

Have you ever placed your faith in something that wasn’t worthy of your trust? I have. I’ve fallen through the ice on a frozen, shallow pond. I sat down once in a chair that immediately broke into pieces. I’ve trusted people who later used my confidence to hurt me. These kinds of disappointments can make us hesitant to trust anyone or anything.

God gives us a definition of faith in Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” This passage is not telling us to place our faith in things or people who are not worthy of our trust. The remaining verses of the chapter make it clear that God is calling us to put our faith in Him.

The Hebrew word from which we get our English word assurance points to a foundation or support. This passage is saying that faith that is well placed in the character of the trustworthy word of Almighty God is a foundation and support for our hope.

What are you putting your faith in? I’m grateful for our government leaders and all they are doing for us during this time, but ultimately, my trust is not in them. They are mere humans who may make a bad choice from time to time. My faith is not in myself. I don’t know enough to always make the wisest decisions. My faith is in God because He alone is worthy of my trust.

This assurance or support for my life has brought about a deep, abiding conviction that God is always at work in my life and in my world to accomplish His purpose. The Bible also tells me that while God’s work is for His glory, it is also for my good.

I’ve shared more thoughts on a video, and I invite you to watch it.

Will you trust God today?

15 Days of Faith – Day 2

I’ve heard all of my life that we should come to God with childlike faith. That exact phrase is not in the Bible, but Jesus did tell us that we should “receive the kingdom of God like a child.” Look at the story found in 

Mark 10:13-16 “And they were bringing children to Him so that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked them. 14 But when Jesus saw this, He was indignant and said to them, “Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15 “Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.” 16 And He took them in His arms and began blessing them, laying His hands on them.”

Jesus wasn’t telling us to be childish. We’ve probably all heard stories over the last several days of childish behavior from adults. He was telling us, however, that we should demonstrate faith in God like children do. Some people have tried to turn this passage into a lot of things it’s not, and others have worked to develop some additional theological message from this encounter. This story is nothing more than parents wanting their children to see Jesus and to be blessed by Him and Jesus using the event to teach us a lesson about authentic faith.

Many years ago, when my youngest son was about three years old, I took my family on vacation to Myrtle Beach. I remember standing in the pool at a campground in waist-deep water. My son yelled my name. I looked up in time to see him start running across the concrete toward the pool. When he got to the edge of the pool, he flung himself into the air toward me. I was stunned at first, but I recovered in time to catch him before he sank in the water.

My son couldn’t swim at that time, but he could trust. He knew his father was not only capable of catching him but also willing and always ready.

God is fully capable of catching you, and He’s waiting on you to call out His name. We are living in some strange times indeed. Although the danger we are encountering right now because of the spread of this virus is temporary, it is reminding us that we need to place our trust in our God Who is much bigger than a virus. Will you trust Him today? I’ve shared a few more thoughts on a video. I hope you’ll watch.

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.