It’s the end of April, we are almost six weeks into a stay-at-home order due to COVID-19, the kids are acting up, my wife is on edge, and I can feel it happening…again. I’m spiraling. A few weeks ago, I was in a rough place. We had just received the news that we were to stay at home for another 30 days. I was in a tailspin—mentally, emotionally, and physically. The prospect of being cooped up for another month sent me to a dark place.
During that time, I knew that my mind was the center of all I was going through. I knew the Scriptures: be renewed by the transforming of your mind; take every thought captive; your attitude should be the same as Jesus; and more. However, I needed tangible practices to help me reduce my anxiety and remember whose I am! Here are a few of the things I’m doing during this strange and difficult time.
1. I’m worshiping with my church. Like many of you, our worship services have gone 100% online in the past month or so. At first this way of doing church was awkward, but now I can’t wait for the weekly worship service. The music, prayer, Scripture, and thoughts from my fellow pastors all help me get my mind right.
2. We’re playing music in the house. On one particularly difficult day, my wife turned on our little Bluetooth speaker and started pumping music from her Pandora station. It was the weirdest and best mix of worship music, country, oldies, and 90s alt rock you’ve ever heard—and it totally changed the mood in the house for those two hours!
3. We’re meeting with our small group. Thank God for our awesome small group! Collectively, we decided from the very beginning of the “stay at home” order that we would continue to meet weekly at our normal time via video conference. It isn’t the same as meeting in person, but it’s still very good. We have been able to share our burdens, pray, and encourage each other.
4. I’m listening to Scripture. Our church started a pattern during this time of listening to the Bible on the Dwell app. I don’t know why, but something about hearing Scripture with accompanying background music takes the experience of engaging with God’s Word to another level. In addition, the app offers customized listening plans that allow users to pick a subject and have Scriptural truth spoken to them right where they are.
5. I’m spending time reading and journaling. Reading and writing take me to another world. When I’m incredibly anxious and circling specific thoughts, I’ve found that reading a chapter of a book can help me refocus my mind. In the same way, journaling helps me get my thoughts down on paper and frees my mind to think more clearly.
6. I’m spending mornings in prayer—with coffee. Has there ever been a more holy dynamic in the spiritual life? Ha! For me, coffee plus prayer is simply the best way to start the morning. I’ve found if I can wake up before the rest of the world (currently my wife and kids), I give myself the gift of quiet time with God to settle my mind and spirit at the beginning of the day. My wife will attest to the fact that when I spend ten minutes with Jesus first thing in the morning, I’m a much better husband, father, and pastor!
7. I’m surrendering it all to God. Perhaps the biggest help to me was making a list of the few things I have control over these days. After I made the list, I surrendered to God all that I could not control. The frustration, the anger, the agitation, the guilt, the shame, the insecurity…I surrendered it all. But I have to remember to surrender it every day—especially on the hard days when it’s easy to let my thoughts spiral out of control again.
We all need practices to help us in the Christian life, especially in times when so much feels out of our control. Maybe these practices will help you, or maybe you’ve thought of others you want to try. Either way, my prayer is that in the midst of these practices, you will meet God. And the result will be a peace that passes understanding.