In the midst of the coronavirus era, there's enough medical advice floating around to fill a textbook. But while most of us are busy stockpiling soap and vitamins, we seem to be forgetting one very important fact.
We not only have a body to keep healthy, but a mind as well. Perhaps we're limiting our sugar and junk food consumption in an attempt to bolster our immune systems, but are we being equally careful in how we take care of our minds?
Dr. Yalda Safai, a contributor to ABC News Medical Unit, wrote recently about the impact of the coronavirus situation on people's minds:
COVID-19 has evoked fear in our lives in a way that hasn't been felt since the 9/11 terrorist attack. The sight of empty grocery store shelves, streets void of pedestrians, overflowing emergency rooms and thousands sequestered at home paints a picture of our new reality.1
Safai also points out that even New York Governor Andrew Cuomo recognizes the huge "emotional toll" this crisis takes on citizens. Cuomo is urging local secular mental health professionals to give of their time freely to those who need help and encouragement.
Especially as believers, the dangers that face our minds and emotions are just as real as the physical germs we're told to avoid, and can be every bit as disruptive in our lives. Proverbs 12:25 warns us, "Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression." The temptation toward fear and anxiety distracts us from an eternal perspective, distorts our view of God's power and goodness, dampens our love for those around us, and blunts our potency as a witness for Christ.
We're already taking steps for our physical protection from the coronavirus, but how can we protect our minds from the trauma that comes with it?
1. Marinate your mind in God's truth.
Our world claims to have all kinds of solutions for human problems. Some secular recommendations can be good and helpful if put in their proper place. However, only the eternal Word of God can heal the human heart in an ultimate sense.
Where our world focuses on "positive thinking," Scripture tells us that we have a God who's so powerful that He controls everything, and so good that "all things work together for good to those who love God."2
Where our world focuses on "staying calm," Scripture tells us that we, as believers, can have true peace because we have been made right with God through repenting and believing in Jesus Christ and will live with Him forever.
God's Word is the foundation that tells us what reality is. Anything we think or do must start and end with what He says.
2. Stay in touch.
Many churches aren't meeting in person right now, and many of us can't get together with friends because of increasingly strict social distancing regulations. However, it's important to realize that with these regulations on physical distance, several sociology professors are encouraging us to stay connected with loved ones. CNN says, "They [medical professionals] are not recommending social disconnection, social exclusion, or rampant individualism."3
Simply put, ceasing all interactions with friends and loved ones is not the right way to go.
On the most basic human level, we recognize to some degree that we need people in our lives. But even from a biblical perspective, consider verses such as 1 Thessalonians 5:14, which says, "Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all." Similarly, Romans 12:10 says, "Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another."
Does a worldwide crisis put a temporary hold on these commands and others? Absolutely not! Our methods for carrying out God's commands might look different than usual as we navigate various restrictions, but there are many ways to stay connected. Especially with current technology, we can (and should) be very creative in how we continue to reach out in love to others. As we do so, this encourages both others and ourselves—and, more importantly, honors the Lord.
3. Focus on God's Good Gifts.
Almost every single headline we see right now is about hardship—new virus cases, political turmoil, job losses, and more. It's good and right that we recognize those hardships, do anything we need to do about them, and take them before the Lord in prayer.
However, if that's all we focus on, we will soon despair. It's essential that we frequently put all that aside and revel in "every good gift" God still puts in our lives.4
Here are some ways we can do that:
- Spend extra time in Scripture and prayer.
- Be thankful that most of us still have plentiful food to eat, in spite of some current shortages.
- Walk outside and enjoy His creation.
- Soak up the extra family time.
- Use technology to connect with friends and family we don't live with.
- Utilize the creativity He's given us and pick up a new hobby (or an old one).
- Learn something we've always wanted to know about.
- Thank Him for modern health care, which is amazing in spite of its flaws.
Even when He allows His children to go through hard times, He never stops giving good gifts. As often as possible, we need to lift up our eyes from the news long enough to see some of the good He's placed around us.
Yes, we should keep washing our hands and following the other recommendations to avoid catching and spreading the virus. But as we seek to take care of our bodies, we must be equally careful stewards of the minds that God has given us.
1. Safai, Y. Anxiety and depression likely to spike among Americans as coronavirus pandemic spreads. ABC News. Posted on abcnews.com March 23, 2020, accessed March 30, 2020.
2. Romans 8:28.
3. Menjivar, C, J. G. Foster, J. E. Brand. Don’t call it ‘social distancing.’ CNN Opinion. Posted on CNN.com March 21, 2020, accessed March 30, 2020.
4. James 1:17.
*Lauren Pennington is Volunteer Coordinator at the ICR Discovery Center for Science & Earth History.