From my distress I called upon the Lord; The Lord answered me and set me in a large place. Psalm 118:5 (ASV)
Many people are struggling with a higher level of stress as they are forced to shelter-in-place. In many instances, the higher level of stress has led to distress, yet these individuals feel stuck because they lack the coping mechanisms to help them deal with their distress. Some people have developed bad habits to help them cope with their COVID-19 related distress.
The Bible acknowledges the negative impact distress can have on the human soul and our relationship with God. Indeed, as I look throughout the Bible, distress impacts many people. For example, Elijah was so distressed that he wanted God to kill him (1 Kings 19:1-14). When the Amalekites took captive the wives and the children of the men that joined David’s ragtag army, these men blamed David and wanted to kill him. In 1 Samuel 30:6, it is said that “David was greatly distressed because the men were talking about stoning him.” In John 12:27, Jesus was greatly distressed as the hour of his death approached.
The point here is that to be distressed is natural and inevitable. Everyone feels distressed at some point in life. It is the way we deal with the distress that highlights our faith and sets us apart as disciples of Jesus Christ. God knew that we would have many troubles and be anxious at times. That is why Jesus gave us the Holy Spirit as our comforter and enabler.
Allow me to share four principles for dealing with the distress of sheltering in place. First, get creative. The monotony of sheltering-in-place can be distressing if we do not get creative. That means, take the time to learn a new skill like cooking or gardening or painting. Maybe, use the time to write a book or your own devotionals or a curriculum for children. The key here is to keep our minds occupied.
Secondly, avoid cultivating bad habits. Many people are using food to cope with their distress. Over-easting leads to obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure. That can make us more susceptible to Coronavirus. Besides, the more we eat, the more shame and guilt we feel about our bodies, which leads to a vicious cycle of overeating to help cope with the shame and guilt of obesity.
Thirdly, avoid unnecessary arguments, and get over petty differences. Unfortunately, spousal abuse has increased dramatically as people shelter-in-place. No one should feel like his or her home is a prison. You do not always have to win an argument. “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18).
Fourthly, spend more time with the Lord. Elijah overcame his distress by spending time with God on Mount Sinai. When his men talked about stoning David, he found strength in the Lord (1 Samuel 30:6). Jesus prayed his way out of his distress and was affirmed by the Father in Heaven (John 12:27-28).
Let us not forget that the Holy Spirit is our enabler. He can enable us to deal with the distress of sheltering-in-place. However, we have to be intentional in praying fervently, meditating on the word of God, and focusing our minds on the things of God. Be careful to avoid distractions. Too many believers are distracted by the news media and by social media. Watching television should not distract a believer from praying. And please, avoid becoming addicted to watching television or to social media.
Make a list of things to do every day. For example, reach out to at least two people per day to pray with them or encourage them. Learn something new about the Bible every day. Exercise more consistently and be intentional about developing a healthier lifestyle.
The bottom line is that physical health, mental fitness, and spiritual awareness give us the strength and authority to overcome distress. The better we treat ourselves (mind, body, spirit), the less distress we will experience, no matter how long we have to shelter-in-place. Then we will have a great testimony with a well-toned and healthy body after this season is over, to the glory of God.
Prayer- Blessed Lord, please help those that are distressed as they shelter-in-place. Please give them the strength and discipline to take steps to better themselves, so they do not become bitter.