pandemic

Since March we’ve had our share of unique experiences: the COVID-19 pandemic, lockdowns, social isolation, constant news surfing, social and political upheaval, etc. These experiences led to a number of social/emotional responses, not the least of which have been significant rises in depression symptoms and suicidal thoughts.

Time magazine related the following:

A pre-pandemic survey of about 5,000 American adults found that 8.5% of them showed strong enough signs of depression (including feeling down or hopeless; loss of interest in things that normally bring joy; low energy; trouble concentrating; or thinking about self-harm) to warrant a probable diagnosis. When researchers surveyed almost 1,500 American adults about their mental health from March to April of this year, that number rose to almost 28%. Even more people—almost an additional 25%—showed milder signs of depression.

JAMIE DUCHARME

These depression symptoms further resulted in an increase in suicidal thoughts. According to the CDC 11% of adults contemplated suicide in June. The percentage of individuals in the 18-24 age group was a staggering 25.5% in June.

No doubt our unique set of circumstances has driven us to emotional, mental, and societal turmoil. We are not the first people to face such turmoil, nor will we be the last. Currently, we are working through the book of Jeremiah at our church. If you’re interested, you can find our sermons on YouTube or Vimeo. Jeremiah’s ministry was more than 40 years long during a time when his nation was idolatrous and immoral. He invited them to repent, warned them of coming judgment, and found stability in his walk with God. As you might imagine Jeremiah was unpopular in his day. He suffered from anxieties, isolation, and persecution. His experience offers us some insight into how we can address our own anxieties and emotions in these days.

Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O LORD, God of hosts.

Jeremiah 15:16.
  • Pursue peace through God’s Word. Jeremiah’s expression of joy in 15:16 is rare in his complaints and prophecies. Most of his prayers are laments and complaints. But Jeremiah found joy in the Word of God. Reading, studying, and memorizing Scripture is the primary means for the follower of Jesus to find peace, joy, and consolation in the midst of turmoil and anxiety. Remember, the news media and politicians are invested in your conflicts and anxieties. I’m not suggesting that you stick your head in the sand and ignore the news, but I am recommending that you spend more time in God’s Word and less time being inundated with the anxiety-driven news cycle around us.
  • Get help if you need it. God’s Word is an effective means for dealing with anxieties and worries, but in some cases you might need more help. If you are overly anxious, suicidal, or experiencing depression-like symptoms, let somebody know. Family, friends, fellow church members, or pastors will be willing to get you the help you need. Please don’t ignore your emotional well-being.
  • Look for someone else to encourage. Maybe you’re reading this and you’re ok. You’ve had your anxieties, but you’re through them. You’re in God’s Word and are experiencing his presence and blessings. Great! Look for someone else to encourage. You may be ok, but not everyone else is. If you are concerned about someone, check on them. Give them a call. Shoot them a text. Visit with them. As followers of Jesus, we are to share one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2).

If you are follower of Jesus, remember that you are called by the name of the Lord. We will get through this because we have God’s promises and his presence.

Photo by K. Mitch Hodge on Unsplash

My two sons (9 and 6) love adventure stories just as much as I do. Pretending to be heroes, they wield (plastic) swords, defeat bad guys, and travel on heroic journeys.

At some point, though, we grow up. While we might never lose our sense of adventure or our joy in a good story, our age and responsibilities necessitate adult thinking. 

Often this means we set aside our pursuit of adventure and risk-taking for the everyday. After all, it’s the job that pays the bills, not the fantasies of books, video games, and make-believe.  

In the last several weeks, I’ve been rethinking this perspective. If you’re anything like me, you’ve been reading, studying, learning, and listening to all you can about COVID-19. 

Not only does the current pandemic feed our minds for personal information, but if you’re in any field of leadership, it’s also a necessity. We need to be informed and aware of what’s going on to make well-informed decisions. 

In this article, I’m intentionally trying to write a different perspective. I’d ask a bit of grace as well. 

When you read the perspective that follows, I’m not trying to minimize the hurt and suffering faced by so many. Rather, I’m offering a view that interprets the pandemic as a difficulty to overcome—a dangerous adventure. 

Here are just a few ways adventure stories can remind us how to get through this pandemic. 

WE’RE ON A JOURNEY WE DIDN’T ASK FOR OR SEEK OUT.

Think of the stories of Frodo Baggins, Harry Potter, or Luke Skywalker. None of us in leadership (Christian leadership in particular) sought out these leadership challenges. 

We didn’t create the environment for these stay-at-home orders, social distancing, or online church, but we find ourselves on this journey. 

We can’t change our situations. We’re responsible for what we do with what is in front of us, not for what we can’t control. 

THE SUCCESS OF THE HERO’S JOURNEY OFTEN DEPENDS ON THE DETAILS

I love a good turn in a story where a seemingly minor detail plays an important role in the entire plotline (Harry’s invisibility cloak, Indiana Jones’ whip, or Aragorn’s sword). 

Friends, we’ve been placed in an imperfect situation as imperfect people. We’re going to make mistakes and probably make wrong decisions. I already have. 

Without adding too much pressure, we must remember the details matter. Now, don’t stress out. I’m not suggesting our online media needs to be perfect or trying to add worry about imperfect communication strategies. 

I mean something more basic. The details that’ll get us through are these: spending time in the Word and prayer, listening to others, taking time to make a phone call, or pausing in your busyness to take a stressed-out child on a walk. 

When all is said and done, successful journeys often turn on the ability of the leaders to remember the details that matter. 

WE NEED OTHERS TO MAKE IT THROUGH. 

Luke Skywalker had Han Solo, Frodo had the fellowship for part of his journey and Samwise for all of it, and Harry had Ron and Hermione. 

But isolation is a real challenge these days. 

As a pastor, I’m heartbroken over the many who are suffering the negative effects of isolation and loneliness. And at another level, I’m saddened for leaders who are without any support or aid. 

Friends, you won’t make it through this alone. You need someone who’ll say, “You don’t have to be Jesus.” 

You need church leaders who’ll say, “Pastor, I’m praying for you. Tell me what you need, and I’ll do it.” 

You need others around you that you can depend on. In Philippians 2, Paul bragged on Timothy and Epaphroditus, two men who helped him make it through. 

I’m convinced that when all is said and done, those with a strong support system will be those who make it through healthy and strong. 

WE HAVE TO RECOGNIZE THAT OUR STRENGTH IS OUTSIDE OF US

Luke had the force, Harry had his mother’s love, and Frodo had Gandalf the wizard. Please refrain from your theological critiques. I’m not equating the outside influences in these stories with God. 

However, what I think is instructive is that popular psychology, liberal theology, and humanistic philosophy want us to look within ourselves to find our strength. But in nearly every great story, the hero has outside help. 

This says something. I’m preaching to the choir here, but we won’t make it through this pandemic without God. 

Your church members won’t make it without God: those who are delaying funerals, those who can’t visit aging parents in nursing homes, those who find working from home while educating children nearly impossible, those who can’t provide for their families because they lost their job and unemployment hasn’t come through yet, and on and on. 

You get it. We need the help of the only One truly outside the situation. 

And gloriously, the gospel teaches that Jesus came into our situation to experience our sufferings, to become our Savior, and to offer us hope. 

Christian leadership in this pandemic is an adventure. Thankfully, our Savior is the Hero who’s already faced His journey victorious, and His strength is there for us to make it through. 

Originally published here through Lifeway Facts and Trends.

Photo by Simon Matzinger on Unsplash