Okay. I admit it. I don’t want to do this anymore. I’m ready for this to be over. I’m ready to get back to “normal.” How about you?
We all respond differently to stressful times, and the COVID-19 pandemic is a stressful time multiplied by 100. As this pandemic drags on, many are facing unemployment, illness, death of loved ones, e-learning, or family dysfunctions that have erupted at a higher level than ever before.
And how do some respond? According to the CDC website, stress during an infectious disease outbreak can include:
- Fear and worry about your own health and the health of your loved ones.
- Changes in sleep or eating patterns.
- Difficulty sleeping or concentrating.
- Worsening of chronic health problems.
- Worsening of mental health conditions.
- Increased use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs.
The toll on Americans is becoming both palpable and quantifiable. Karestan Koenan, professor at Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, cited a recent Kaiser Family Foundation survey in which 19 percent of respondents said the current crisis has had a “major impact” on their mental health.
In the Old Testament, we read a story about the great prophet Elijah who called down fire from heaven and who, by God’s power, defeated the false prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18). The very next chapter, however, we see Elijah’s faith crumple in fear.
“Then he was afraid, and he arose and ran for his life and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there. But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, `It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers” (1 Kings 19:3-4, ESV).
During this pandemic, there are times my faith has given way to fear. Maybe yours has, too. When Elijah was faltering, God was imparting, and He has been doing that ever since. First, God imparted a messenger to help (1 Kings 19:5). One of the roles of the church is to be messengers of God’s help and grace in times of stress and difficulty.
Second, God imparted His presence (1 Kings 19:11-13). God appeared to Elijah, not in the wind, earthquake or fire, but in a gentle whisper. Like Elijah, we need to be still and know that He is God (Psalm 46:10) and find our strength and solace in Him.
Third, God imparted a calling (1 Kings 19:15). God told Elijah to go and serve, for He was not finished with him yet. When we have purpose, we have focus and direction. We may not know how everything will pan out, but we know God is laying out a plan for our lives and future.
You are not alone. When you find your faith faltering and fear rising, turn to the God of comfort, help and strength. Be willing to receive messengers in your life who can help. Be open through prayer, rest, God’s Word and Spirit to receive His presence. Be focused on the purpose God has for you, because, as was the case with Elijah, God is not finished with you yet.
If you would like to check out some helpful resources, go to www.east91st.org/counselingresources.