COVID, Stress, and God’s Purposeful Hand
The “new normal” of present living has made daily decision making much more difficult. Wouldn’t you say?
An abnormally infectious virus, spiking infection rates, the calls (or demands) for social distancing and facial masking, the quandaries of where to work, what to do with children more at home, whether or not to physically return to classrooms, or to worship services, when and how to socialize. It has simply become more complicated.
One moment, we are ready to scream, “Enough already!” ready to throw aside restraint. Then, in calmer moments, we ponder what is truly safe.
WHAT IS STRESS?
Stress happens to us physically and mentally when a threat or demand bears down on our experience. It’s that mental/emotional weight of having to handle more than normal, and a shoulder-slumping weariness sets in. Several years ago, we were told that many of our nation’s bridges had serious stress fractures. They had not yet collapsed, but bearing more weight over time than they were designed for resulted in noticeable cracks in the concrete and iron undergirding.
Such a condition can be dangerous. Persistent stress can cause collapse. A good number of the Psalms were written by Spirit-filled individuals who were stressed out. “In my distress,” David writes, “I called upon the Lord, to my God I cried for help” (Psalm 18).
As Christians, we remember that our Lord Jesus himself was often under load. “Consider Him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted” (Hebrews 12:3).
Sometimes, of course, we invite stress into our lives by over-committing. We pack too much into our schedules only to realize that all the running around is a frazzle.
Yet we also know—or perhaps we should remind ourselves—that our Father-God’s purposeful hand can be in the pressure we are experiencing as individuals or as families.
OUR FATHER’S PURPOSE IN THE STRESS
Scripture is so helpfully clear, if we have ears to hear.
First, our Father’s purpose is to LEARN TO SINGULARLY TRUST HIM when things appear beyond our own control. Paul reminded the Corinthians, “[in Asia] we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength” (2 Cor 1:8). Quite a description! Why would God allow such pressure into Paul’s life? Wasn’t he a faithful servant? Couldn’t God make things easier for him?
Sure. Yet Paul understood why his Father had allowed this into his experience. “[It] was to make us rely not on ourselves, but on God who raises the dead” (2 Cor 1:9). Our dependent faith on God’s ability to provide the right help at the right time is, in God’s sight, a precious response to stress. Stress should prompt quiet moments of settling prayer, a kneeling down and a looking up.
Second, our Father’s purpose is to CONNECT US WITH OTHERS IN HIS FAMILY. Christians are called “the body” of Christ. 1 Corinthians 12:24-26 teaches “God has so composed the body…that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together. If one member is honored, all rejoice together.”
Please listen to me here. Refuse to sit at home silently. You have a phone, use it! “Do not neglect meeting together…encourage one another day by day” (Hebrews 10:25). If you can’t meet, at least connect, talk, pray over the phone. Let the care for one another flow.
Who could you call in the next 30 minutes simply to encourage and pray?
Third, our Father’s purpose in our stress can be TO EXPOSE SINFULNESS THAT NEEDS TO BE SHED.
I ask this – “Does the pressure you’re under bring out more ‘fruit of the Spirit’ or the ‘deeds of the flesh’?” (cf. Galatians 5:16-26). Psychologists and therapists are consistently reporting that the COVID-induced at-home isolation is causing in uptick in family problems, abuse, alcohol consumption, and divorce-seeking. The pressure is revealing fractures that have been ignored or glossed over.
The stress need not destroy what is most precious to us. God can do anything – indeed something new – with humble hearts that turn to Him and say, “We need to fix this with God’s help.” Such humility can be the seedbed for some sin-shedding and relational renewal.
“In all these things” (Romans 8:37) “we are MORE than conquerors through Him who loved us.” Christ’s love for us can help lift the weightiness of life.
As the wedge of pressure invades your life, be careful where it falls. Let it fall on the side of you that moves you TOWARD the Lord rather than in between, moving you away. Trust Him. Connect with others. Be humble. God’s hand is purposeful.