I’ve discovered the secret.
I know how to overcome the dangers of Covid-Anxiety.
These are NOT my steps. These are Jim’s steps.
Let Me Explain.
I’m a pastor. And every Friday I fill my schedule, all day long, with back-to-back appointments speaking with the members of our church. We call it “Friday with the Pastor”. We sit, have coffee, and talk about everything and anything. I get to hear about their dreams, goals, passions, failures, and fears. My goal is to give Biblical counsel and pastoral guidance, but usually I receive more encouragement than I tend to give.
I value these interactions. I feel like I’ve learned so much. Each one inspires me.
But over the last five months there is one particular problem that continually seems to pop up that does bring me great concern.
I call it Covid Anxiety.
Obviously, I’m not the only one to notice this disturbing trend.
According to Census Bureau statistics — 24 percent of 42,000 respondents reported significant symptoms of major depressive disorder and 30 percent symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder – were, in some cases, double those uncovered in 2014. In Connecticut, 36 percent said they felt anxious or depressed.
Touching Too Many Lives.
More than a third of all Americans are showing signs of clinical anxiety or depression. This is sure to increase with the recent school closure announcements around the country.
One such American has been meeting with me since this all began.
Let’s call him – JIM.
Jim is a man of extraordinary intelligence. He’s well educated and successful in his field.
Jim would fit easily into the social circle of Sheldon, Leonard, Raj, and Howard.
He’s a great dad, a loving husband, and a deeply committed disciple of Jesus Christ.
He is also terrified of the Coronavirus.
“Naturally”, may be your immediate reply, “he’s a man of extraordinary intelligence.” But you have to understand. His fear goes beyond that of reasonable awareness and logical calculation. We have many medical professionals who are members of our church and sit on our medical committee, one happens to be a highly respected infectious disease specialist, none of whom demonstrate the fear with which Jim is suffering.
This terror is not a rational fear.
Thankfully, Jim knows this to be the case.
Several months ago, after hearing my sermon entitled Fear is Contagious, he scheduled an appointment to speak with me about how a Christian could overcome this kind of fear through the power of the gospel. I prayed, shared several Scriptures, and sent Jim on a journey of discovery that would last 5 weeks and produce 5 powerful steps.
5 Steps to Overcoming Covid Anxiety:
Collect Data from Unbiased & Apolitical Sources
There are many in our society who benefit from misinformation, fear-mongering, and divisive rhetoric. Skepticism can be a great ally in a world filled with propaganda, conspiracies, and spin. Unfortunately, too many have a political agenda – especially in an election year.
Therefore, we’ve found that steering clear of major news networks, shock-jocks, and movie stars, as a main source for Covid-related information, has been extremely calming.
Jim suggests, “for raw information and facts MedCram is phenomenal. His videos are aimed at other doctors while still knowing that the lay-man will be watching. It’s about as dry as one would expect doctor to doctor lectures would be, and a source of a great deal of information without any desire to cause more fear.”
Personally, I’ve found that taking time to speak with the medical professionals in our own local church and community has helped me stay away from fear and frustration.
These are things that you can also do. Turn off the media and turn to those you know personally who have studied these issues beyond your limited ability. When you collect data from unbiased sources, you tend to avoid the fearmongering that is so ubiquitous today.
Study Comfort Scriptures
All Scripture is given by the inspiration of God and is profitable.
However, knowing which Scriptures to turn to when facing a particular situation is something that takes time.
Jim faces a debilitating fear that keeps him up, late into the night. He’s woken up on multiple occasions with head thumping, heart pounding, and mind racing. These irrational panic attacks are not unique to my dear friend. He, along with many others, understand the great anxiety that David wrote about in Psalm 43:5,
“Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God.”
Over the last few months Jim has developed a list of what he calls, “comfort Scriptures.”
“These are the passages I go through when I need extra comfort, strength, and peace to make it through a rough spot.”
- Psalm 3 — sleep
- Psalm 4 — sleep
- Psalm 23
- Psalm 25
- Psalm 32
- Psalm 37
- Psalm 40
- Psalm 46
- Psalm 55
- Psalm 56
- Psalm 91
- Proverbs 3:24-26 — sleep
- Proverbs 14:26-27
- Proverbs 29:25
- Isaiah 41:10-14
- Isaiah 55: 8-9
- Isaiah 64:4
- Lamentations 3:22-26
- Matthew 6:25-34
- John 12:47
- John 14:27
- Romans 5:1-8
- Romans 8:28
- 1 Corinthians 10:13
- 2 Corinthians 1:3-7
- 2 Corinthians 12:9
- Ephesians 6:11-17
- Philippians 4:4-7 & 13
- 2 Timothy 1:7
- Hebrews 13:8
- 1 Peter 4:16
- 1 Peter 5:6-11
- 1 John 4:18
- 1 John 5:14-15
Listen to me, my dear friend. After 30 minutes of meditating on the Word of God, you too will find strength, comfort, and rest.
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 understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Alone. Silence. God.
Tell Him what you need.
Tell Him how you feel.
Ask Him for whatever it is you desire.
Here is a prayer that can help you through the most difficult moments of anxiety.
“Father, I’m afraid. I’m scared of this virus. I’m scared that I’ll catch it, that my children will catch it, that my wife will catch it, that my friends will catch it. I’m afraid of dying. Part of me knows that Heaven will be my home when I die, but another part of me is still absolutely terrified of the process.
I’m not only anxious about my health; I’m worried about my job, the economy, our finances, and our society at large. I am filled to the brim with WORRY!
I can’t sleep – and when I do, my dreams are filled with disaster.
I can’t eat – and when I do, my diet is filled with harmful things.
I can’t rest – and when I do, my habits tend to be destructive.
HELP ME GOD!
There is SO MUCH that I don’t know. But I know that you love me!
There is SO MUCH that I can’t control. But I believe that you are in control!
There is SO MUCH that distresses me. But I have decided to put my faith in you!
Please, give me peace instead of stress. Give me hope instead of despair. Give me joy instead of sorrow. Give me confidence instead of cowardice. Give me faith instead of fear.”
Find a Temporary Escape
Jim likes video games. I like adventure or fantasy movies.
Pastoring can be a stressful job that tends to overwhelm the mind. I learned years ago that running away from the office for a few hours, buying a bag of popcorn, and getting lost in a story seemed to relieve the pressure. When the credits role and the lights come back up – I feel refreshed and refocused.
When things are too crushing for Jim, he gets lost in the imaginative World of Warcraft or Space Engineers.
The helps of a temporary escape are obvious. The dangers here are several.
- Don’t ignore the reality in favor of the fantasy.
- Limit your time or you’ll throw away your life.
- Temporary Escapes should never replace the study of Scripture & Prayer.
- Chemical dependency & pornography are not healthy escapes from reality.
You are not so great that you don’t need a temporary escape from reality. So find a healthy escape that you can use occasionally like the heroes of the Bible.
Paul seemed to enjoy watching sports.
David seemed to be an avid musician.
Samson seemed to be interested in foxes.
Whatever it is that you’re into, give yourself a break and find a temporary escape.
Surround yourself with a Support System
Jim has told me on multiple occasions how his wife and children have stepped up to help him when he is at his lowest point. Instead of ridiculing him for being genuinely fearful, they hug him and speak words of comfort into his heart. Instead of placating him by validating an irrational thought, they calmly challenge him with truth and Scripture.
Jim told me that, “On multiple occasions I’ve noticed my little boy walk into the room, look up at me, and smile. Pastor, my little son will walk right up to me, put his hand on my knee and say, ‘I love you daddy. It’s going to be okay’.”
Jim’s wife doesn’t share the same anxiety concerning Covid-19. She sees the virus as a reality, doesn’t deny the science, but isn’t as prone to angst as her husband. The beautiful thing about their family is that she doesn’t shame him and belittle him in the midst of his struggle, even when she is asked to do the unreasonable.
In our last meeting Jim recounted a recent story that demonstrated true patience and love. She was scheduled to escape the house for the evening. Just a little shopping, fast-food, and a relaxing drive through the city. “Pastor, I was NOT having a great day. The anxiety was pretty high. I told her that I didn’t feel right about her leaving the house that night and asked her if she’d stay home. I don’t do this very often, but something about that night just scared me. Instead of arguing with me and ridiculing me, she simply put down her purse and came and hugged me. We stayed in that night.”
As Jim described that evening to me, I noticed that he didn’t do so with arrogance, selfishness, or egotism. He didn’t demonstrate the pride of someone who’d gotten their way. He related the details of that night with humility, appreciation, and a determination to get better – for the sake of the people who love him so much.
His Small Group
Jim is not ready to come back to church. Though the mitigation practices (developed by our medical committee) are extremely thorough, we encourage those of the vulnerable population and increased levels of anxiety to stay home and wait until they are fully ready. They watch online every Sunday and connect weekly through multiple online small groups.
Jim told me that his weekly online small group with Ray Hall has been extremely helpful to his spiritual walk and emotional health. Near the beginning of his journey it was his Small Group (via Zoom) with Peter & Leah that really got him through the most difficult moments. Being able to see others, talk about the Scriptures, and focus on my spirit has been huge for my dear friend.
These are the 5 Steps to Overcoming Covid Anxiety. At least, these are the ones we’ve been seeing here in our little part of the world.
What steps have we missed?
Is there something that you’ve done that has helped you through all of this?
Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.
Is there someone you love who is prone to anxiety through this pandemic?
Share this article with them.
 II Timothy 3:16
 If you’re in need of Christian community – regardless of where you live – you can join one of our online small groups here: https://www.southernhillslv.com/about-small-groups