April 07, 2020 | Coronavirus | Emotions | Anxiety | Counseling by Mike Greene
In a crisis, we are prone to overestimate the threat, underestimate our resources, and forget God’s power and sovereignty. The COVID-19 virus situation and the impact it is having on our families certainly present some real reasons to be concerned, even fearful. You know that God has commanded you not to fear, not to worry, and to be anxious for nothing, but maybe you still feel anxious. You might even have anxiety because you’re not supposed to be anxious! Let’s take a deep breath and just talk through this together. You are most likely more normal than you think, and there really is hope.
First of all, you are not the only one. If we are honest, we all experience feelings of anxiety sometimes. Jesus reminds us that we will always have trouble in this world (John 16:33). We have some good reasons to be concerned these days, and God knows exactly what you are going through. God created you with emotions, that’s part of what makes you human. Your anxiety is a sign that you are alive and that you care. But what do you do when it starts to feel bad, when it impacts your relationships, and when it gets in the way of normal life?
Let’s begin by looking at what anxiety is. Fear, worry and anxiety are all closely related. Anxiety is fear that has moved in to stay. It is fear of what might happen in the future, and it doesn’t feel any different whether the threat is real or perceived. Anxiety can range from mild agitation to a full-blown panic attack. Chronic worry and anxiety reflect a fear and obsession with future events that may or may not happen. How many things that you worried about yesterday actually happened today?
At best, anxiety and worry can identify what is really important to us and remind us that only God is really in control. Anxiety and worry can reveal our need for God, or it can take us into a godless state of self-absorption. You probably did not choose to be anxious, you probably did not choose the circumstances that you are in, but you can change how you look at things. You can’t just stop being fearful, but you can change what you fear. When you fear God, who loves you and is sovereign over all things, everything else gets smaller. It is natural to be anxious sometimes, but chronic anxiety is detrimental and sinful.
Now let’s talk about what you can do with anxiety. You must resist the temptation to separate yourself from your best sources of support: God Himself, God’s Word, your church family, and the spiritual leaders and other mature believers that God has put in your life. Chronic anxiety truly is a spiritual battle. You cannot fight that battle alone, nor were you ever expected to. Along those same lines, it is important to develop and maintain your spiritual disciplines: Prayer, worship, Bible study, evangelism, giving, fellowship and service. Since all of our problematic emotions involve an unhealthy self-focus, you must resolve to do these whether you feel like it or not. However, you must be careful to not let these become rituals only. You need to spend personal time with God and align yourself with His Word, that is, believe it! As he was dying, John Wesley said this about Gods Word, “These promises are all fine, but the best is God-with-us.” Jesus promised to never leave you or forsake you. He is with you even if it does not feel like it. The psalmist says “When my anxious thoughts multiply within me, your consolations delight my soul” (Psalm 94:19).
As you seek the Lord and you seek godly counsel, here are some critical questions to ask yourself, to pray about, and to research in God’s Word:
- What things are most important to you? What do you value or love? For whose purpose?
- What do you fear or worry about most?
- Who or what do you trust for peace, provision or protection? Consider your reasons for trust.
- What comes to mind when you find yourself in a state of severe anxiety or worry?
- Where is God in your fears, anxieties and worries?
While the only cure for anxiety is complete surrender to God and trusting fully in Him, there are some other things you can do that will at least help you to feel better. We have discovered in our counseling ministry that people struggling with problematic emotions almost always feel a little better when they practice these things, and as they begin to feel better, their spiritual disciplines begin to be more effective. This is not an exhaustive list, but listed below are some practical things that anyone can do. If the list seems intimidating to you, try one this week, then another, and then another.
Attend church regularly (online for now) whether you feel like it or not. Be active in a Life Group.
If you have trouble praying, then try praying the Psalms back to God. Notice how the Psalms paint a true picture of the struggles we all have in life.
Keep a regular schedule. Eat healthy meals at regular times. Go to bed and get up at the same times every day, even if you don’t sleep well. Maintain a good work/life balance.
Get some regular exercise and some fresh air. (Yes, it does really help).
Do something for someone else. It can be a simple phone call or serving a particular need, or anything in between. Share the gospel with someone who needs to hear it. Start with at least one this week, and then increase your focus on others more every week.
Get involved in serving in one of the many ministries in our church.
Limit your exposure to the news. It is helpful to get enough news to be informed. It is not helpful to listen to people pontificate and speculate 24/7 about what might happen. THEY DON’T KNOW!
Make sure that your Bible time comes before your TV time. Make healthy choices when it comes to TV watching (content and the amount of time). Limit your time on social media, and come to grips with the fact that much of it is not true.
Make a list of things that you fear. Note which ones are in your control (now be honest). Then make a list of all that you are thankful for and dwell on these.
Some of our emotional issues can be caused or exacerbated by physical ailments and medications. If you have had recent changes in your health or in your medications, consult your doctor.
Mix up your routine. Avoid the “Groundhog Day” syndrome. Go for a walk, do something new. If you enjoyed doing something in the past before life ran off the rails, try it again.
If your emotional struggles have gotten bigger than your faith, then please know that your Life Group leader, your pastors, and the Biblical Counseling Ministry are all here to help. You can learn more about the Biblical Counseling Ministry and request counseling online at www.richlandcreek.com/counseling. There is no shame in asking for help, and that is what we’re here for. You are not alone in your struggles; we are all in this together, and the Lord is with us.