Calming Anxiety in a COVID Season

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“And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” – Jesus in Matt 6:27 ESV

As each of us has faced significant risks, challenges and uncertainties during this coronavirus pandemic, it’s possible that the biggest impact of this season affecting the greatest number of people may be the toll that COVID-19 has taken on our collective mental health.

Before this crisis, 5% of Canadians reported high-to-extreme levels of anxiety. In the first five weeks, that number quadrupled to 20% while cases of depression in Canada have more than doubled during that same time.[1] Currently, 40% of Canadians surveyed say they are struggling with anxiety.

Just as we recognize our frontline healthcare workers and those providing essential services, we salute our mental health professionals on the front lines who are facing increased caseloads yet are unable to treat many clients who are in isolation.

Apart from getting professional help or taking practical steps to help us deal with anxiety such as exercising, getting fresh air or limiting the amount of time we spend watching the news, let’s look at three spiritual steps we can take from the example of David in Psalm 42:11.

In the Bible, God calls David a man after his own heart[2] and yet we see several occasions in his life where he dealt with deep anguish and despair. There were times he faced threats on his life, personal moral failure, tragedy, and the loss of a number of his children. Through all of it, David found a way through the anxiety.

 Step One: Isolate the Anxiety

As we look at Psalm 42, we see one of many examples of David getting alone with God and longing for connection with Him much like a deer panting and thirsting after water.[3] In the process of pouring his heart out to God, he begins to isolate his feelings of anxiety and tries to understand the cause.

“Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become restless and disturbed within me?” Psalm 42:11a AMP

Just like we are self-isolating and distancing to stop the spread of a virus when we deal with anxiety we want to ‘self-isolate’ the thoughts and feelings in our heart as David did and ask “Why do I feel this way?” and “What am I anxious about?”

Often with anxiety, we experience a range of emotions such as uneasiness, panic or loss of control and don’t know where the feelings are coming from. Whether the cause is related to a loss or life-change, our jobs or our finances, our health or our relationships if we can identify the “why”, we can bring clarity and deal with these feelings at the root. As we do this, we discover that isolating the anxiety has a way of immobilizing it and shrinking it down to where it doesn’t look so scary after all. We can then move on to step two.

Step Two: Recognize the Misplaced Hope

“Man can live about forty days without food, about three days without water, about eight minutes without air…but only for one second without hope.” – Hal Lindsey[4]

God made us creatures of hope. We require it more than oxygen and when we experience hopelessness, we find ourselves in a mental health crisis. At the root of nearly all our anxieties is a hope that has been lost or misplaced.

Let’s look at David and this next part of Psalm 42:11…

“Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become restless and disturbed within me? Hope in God and wait expectantly for Him…” Psalm 42:11b AMP

The shaking we’ve experienced during this pandemic has forced each of us to ask ourselves where our hope is. Are we trusting in ourselves? Is our hope in our governments or our economies or our careers and accomplishments? A crisis like COVID-19 reveals that there is truly nothing on this earth that can provide the hope we all desperately need. There is nothing that is certain and nothing that is completely within our control. Only God is certain. Only God is in control.

David saw this when he looked at the anxiety in his heart and told himself to “Hope in God!”

If there are any areas of your heart where your hope has been misplaced on temporal and uncertain things, be encouraged to put your hope back in God as David did. As we do this, it leads us to the final part of this verse and to step three.

Step Three: Experience the Calming of His Presence

“Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become restless and disturbed within me? Hope in God and wait expectantly for Him, for I shall again praise Him For the help of His presence.” Psalm 42:11c AMP

I like how David said “I shall again” praise Him. This wasn’t the first time he went to God with his anxieties. He proved this out time and time again! Whenever David ran to God to isolate his anxieties and deal with his misplaced hopes, he experienced a peace and a calming that only God’s presence can bring.

Let’s keep running to God in this season as David did, and as we wait on His presence, we will receive a true calming of our anxieties that transcends any crisis we may face.[5]

__________

[1] https://www.ctvnews.ca/health/coronavirus/anxiety-and-depression-have-spiked-among-canadians-survey-1.4919741
[2] Acts 13:32
[3] Psalm 42:1
[4] https://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/11197.Hal_Lindsey
[5] Philippians 4:4-6