We church leaders know we aren’t called to worry. But if you listen to the news for even five minutes or just check your email, you’re immediately bombarded with all of the information that is telling you we NEED to worry. It’s hard right now. Walking in the peace Christ offers is exactly what we want to do, but it certainly isn’t easy.
So how do we navigate this crazy new season of constant bad news and ever-changing information that seems to be all negative? There is no easy formula, but I’m trying to practice a few simple things that help me find the peace Christ offers us in John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
It’s amazing how quickly my anxiety will subside when I turn off the TV, put down my phone, and spend even 5 minutes in silence asking the Lord to quiet me. He wants to calm this storm that is going on in my heart and mind when I begin to emotionally and mentally spin with all of the “what if” scenarios I come up with. Instead of chasing those thoughts, I choose to press into His presence. I fix my thoughts on the things that are true. He is faithful and doesn’t leave us. He cares about us and can turn even these negative circumstances to good in our lives. He’s still in control and none of this is a surprise to Him.
Fixing my thoughts on truth instead of “what ifs” may look like writing a Bible verse that speaks of His faithfulness on a notecard and taping it onto my bathroom mirror or changing my screensaver to a Scripture that brings me peace. It may look like calling my spouse and reminding each other of His past faithfulness in our lives or writing in my journal for a few minutes. It takes intention to move from worry to peace, but it’s there for me to press into and live in if I will choose to do it.
Whether we’re in a global crisis or not, it’s easy to become consumed with our own trying circumstances. At times, what we need to get out of our own heads and move past our pity party is to look up and see the needs of those around us. There are needs that we, as church leaders, can meet. It takes a bit more creativity and purposeful action when we are all quarantined this way, but it will do wonders for your heart, mind, and spirit.
Contact your older neighbors and family to see if they need groceries dropped off or their yard mowed. See if a family with young children would welcome you having dinner delivered to them. Write a letter or make a phone call to a family member or friend whom you haven’t spoken to in a while. Make cards that can be delivered to a local nursing home spreading encouragement to the residents who are currently without visitors. Find a way to bless someone else instead of thinking of your own frustrations with your current situation.
There are a lot of choices these days that are being made for us in a sense. Church leaders are being told to work from home or just not work. We’re told not to travel and stay 6 feet apart when we do go out. We do have choices, though, that determine how we manage this season. We get to choose our thoughts and attitude. What helps me is intentionally choosing joy. Instead of focusing on all of the constraints and things that are making me fearful and uncomfortable, I choose to focus on the many, many things I have to be thankful for. Every day. Sometimes every hour, I make my mental list or even write my list out so I can see it, of the things I am grateful for. It’s a powerful practice. It allows me to actively choose joy instead of fear and despair.
Finally, as I pursue resting in peace instead of anxiety, I make myself look around. He is working. Although the news that we see and hear is mostly negative and foreboding, there are beautiful things happening around us. There are neighbors helping neighbors. Children driving by a classmate’s house to leave a present in their yard so they feel celebrated on their birthday even though they are apart from their friends. Teachers holding parades in their students’ neighborhoods by driving their decorated cars by their houses to let them know they are missed and loved. Families rediscovering the joy of eating dinner together every night. Businesses giving away services for free just to help us all get through this. Retired medical professionals coming back in to serve and work even though they are sacrificing their own well-being. At the same time, spring is here. The earth is starting to do what it always does during spring, but suddenly we have a lot more time to notice and enjoy the birds and the budding trees, blooming flowers, and pretty weather.
I wish there were answers to the many questions we all have during this time. Much of the uncertainty is not going to go away quickly. So it’s helpful for me to realize that there are some things I can control. I will use these four steps to control my thoughts and attitude. They’ll most certainly impact me but also those around me. I can be a blessing and encouragement to my family, my coworkers, and even those I interact with on social media when I press in, reach out, choose joy, and look around.