In the last post I talked about the liminal space we all find ourselves in these days – the uncomfortable space between the now and the not yet. Although this is a situation where a believer gets to exercise great faith, we’re not always sure what that looks like.
Do we just sit somewhere until we here the audible voice of God? Well, not exactly but we certainly should spend more time listening. There are some things while we’re listening that we can and should be doing that can help us navigate these times.
Let’s choose to do more helpful things and fewer not-so-helpful things. Faith doesn’t look like watching the news 24/7 and obsessing over social media until we find ourselves getting increasingly angry, frustrated, fearful or depressed – slowly draining our emotional resources and making faith hard to hold onto. We need to find ways to reduce the stress and anxiety that is building for so many who have had their lives so disrupted.
What could be helpful might be a series of simple steps to stay emotionally healthy and positive. Here are a few.
Build structure into your day. One helpful idea we can implement when we are in a crisis that is beyond our ability to control is to build some structure into our lives wherever possible. These can be simple steps but they are steps that will help us feel anchored and restore a semblance of control.
Don’t leave your time with God to chance. If you think you will get to it later, chances are you won’t – this happens to me more times than I would like to admit. Make it a priority. If you have children, get up an hour before they do so you can have some quiet before the rush of the day.
Divide up your God-time with reading Scripture, prayer and journaling. Reading keeps us connected to God’s unchanging truth rather than the world’s constantly changing news. Prayer keeps us connected to the One who should be guiding us through life, and journaling can help us immensely. Its been said that, “you haven’t thought about a thing until you have written about it.” This is because writing forces us to order our thinking. Some of my most profound times with the Lord come when I’m journaling. I know men don’t generally like to even think about this exercise but trust me, many have found it to be of great value.
Get dressed. I know you are working from home and can stay in your pajamas all day but you don’t want to be submitting pajama quality work to your boss – get up (at the same time each day) and get dressed for work. It will help your work attitude and keep the quality of your performance up.
Build structure into your day for your children as well. Kids will do better with structure – especially if any of your children struggle with ADHD.
Take breaks and get outside when possible. We need exercise, outdoors and the sun on our face – it’s good for us physically and emotionally.
Eat meals together. I remember teaching a middle school VBS some years back – not as many as you think – and asking how many students ate dinner together as a family. There were probably fifteen kids in the room and no more than two or three raised their hands. The statistics regarding kids who eat dinner with their family are pretty remarkable. This is from The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (and there are many others). Kids whose families eat dinner together, are less likely to be overweight, more likely to eat healthy food, perform better academically, are less likely to engage in risky behaviors (drugs, alcohol and sex) and have better relationships with their parents. This used to be the norm – now it’s the exception. Now is a good time to try this one out.
Limit screen time. Don’t prioritize people on your screen over people in your presence.
Stay connected. While we are to maintain a safe, physical distance from others, social distancing isn’t a good thing. As people made in the image of God, we are hardwired for relationship – this is why solitary confinement is still the worst punishment. Call friends, video chat with others, meet friends outside while keeping a physical distance, etc. Don’t isolate completely from others – we need the contact with others more than ever.
Be aware, be supportive & give grace. Remember that everyone is experiencing this time differently. For some who work from home anyway, this time might not be all that different from a normal week. For others it is an exhausting experience being home full-time with the kids. There is a normal flow of being together and being separated each day that has now been disrupted. It will take extra effort to find ways to break up the time to have some fun together. Some are alone during this time and finding the loneliness to be overwhelming. Reach out to someone you may know in this situation – call or write a card, you know, by hand (people used to do this all the time) – perhaps drop off a meal. Finally, this can be a frightening time for those who may be housebound with an abusive family member. One local domestic abuse shelter in our area has shown a 40% uptick in calls and issues as a result of this time. If this is your situation, don’t suffer in silence – get yourself to a safe place or call someone who can help you.
Finally, remember to pray daily for those who continue to work in unsafe places – hospital and other health care workers, first responders, airline and airport workers and others in public transportation – I’m sure there are many others. Those times keep us connected to a transcendent God and bring us closer as we pray together.
My favorite t-shirt (although I didn’t buy it) was at my local Cabela’s. It reads,
“Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Except bears. Bears will kill you."
Well, the Corona Virus will kill you also ... so let’s stay away from bears and the Corona Virus. Let’s be smart about how we handle this time but let’s not let it rob us of our joy or our faith.
As people of God, even in times of crisis, we can hold onto joy, find joy in new places and spread joy to others around us. We can determine to use this time to grow deeper in faith and grow stronger as families.
As men of God, let’s take the lead and make this a time of opportunity – not a time of panic, fear or frustration.
The Lord of Heaven’s Armies is here among us; the God of Israel is our fortress.
— Psalm 46:11 (NLT)
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