This week is my 30th birthday and I am so thankful that I have made it this far in life.
2 years my sweet family has grown, learned, struggled, prayed, and fought to make it here.
2 years that teeny tiny baby fought for her life turning her into the fierce warrior she is today.
2 years of battling fears and anxieties about health, finances, and peace of mind.
2 years of pursing God and learning to depend on him the way that I should’ve been for years.
It seems strange that after two years, I am rejoicing when things around me looks so bleak. If these two years have taught me anything it’s that no matter the circumstance, God is STILL good, and He deserves our praise even when we don’t really feel like praising Him.
I have some experience in the health panic arena and I thought I would share some tips that helped me get through uncertain times. I’m not comparing my health crises to the magnitude of COVID19 but if one of the things I’ve learned can help someone else, then I am more than happy to share.
- Stay off Google. THIS is paramount! I am not saying to bury your head in the sand and be uninformed, but too much information can be dangerous. I have not googled any health information since April 6, 2018. I get my medical information from my health care providers and the resources that they give me. Google and Facebook are full of “experts” and their opinions. This is not helpful. Take appropriate precautions. Be informed. Don’t be obsessed. The quickest way to spiral into panic is to fall down the rabbit whole of Facebook horror stories of someone who knew someone who’s third cousin suffered from the same thing! Stay up to date using trusted websites and informants.
- Start your day with God…NOT social media. The first thing your mind should gravitate toward in the morning should be the things of God. If you speed out of the gates toward social media, news outlets, or frantic texts from anxious friends and family, you are setting yourself up for failure. I would challenge you to intentionally look at your Bible (APP included) or prayer before any other sources of information are sought out. This really sets the tone for the rest of the day.
- End the day with God… NOT social media. (second verse, same as the first!) To get the most out of your rest and to calm the mind, the last thing your eyes see should be should not be fear and emotion driven. I know this sounds silly but put your phone away. Enjoy your family. Talk to your spouse. Read a book. Set screen time limits for yourself.
- Read through the psalms. The book of Psalms is a book of poetry and music written by many different people during the Old Testament era. I had a tendency of skimming through the psalms before my cancer diagnosis as I have never been a huge fan of poetry. But when your world is flipped upside down and you thought ae swirling, the psalmists speak and put words that match me deepest feelings. Verses like, “I am feeble and severely broken; I groan because of the turmoil in my heart” (Psalm 38:8) “The snares of death confronted me. In my distress I called upon the LORD. And cried out to my God. He heard my voice from His temple, and my cry came before Him, even to His ears. (Psalm 18:6) and my personal favorite that was my prayer everyday “Arise, O Lord; Save me, O my God” (Psalm 3:7) Ironically, God already has saved me when he paid the price for my sin on the cross and allowed me to have eternal life in heaven… and here I sit begging for him to let me stay in this sin-filled less than Earth when Heaven is awaiting me.
- Take a deep breath. This seem trite but I assure you this is important and something that I often forgot to do when I was the most stressed. I wouldn’t even realize that I was holding my breath when I was stressed beyond stress.
- Accept your new normal. Don’t just accept it. Embrace it. It’s God’s plan for you right now. In April of 2018 I found myself unable to go to my job for the foreseeable future. This was something completely foreign to me. I had worked from the time I was a preteen peddling Hot dogs and red cream soda at the ball park. I have quoted this several times before but Matt chandler stated in a sermon “Comfort is the God of our generation, so suffering is seen as a problem to be solved, and not as a providence from God.” If you are out of work or your hours have been reduced use this time to concentrate on your family and your spiritual growth. If this season has caused you to be over worked, embrace it and look for opportunities that God set before you to minister to the people you work with.
- Meditate. Not in an eastern religion clear your mind sort of way because that is opposite of anything the Bible tells us to do. God never tells us to empty our mind, rather the opposite is true. “Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day. Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me.” [Psalm 119:97] Christians are not called to empty their mind of everything. We are called to empty our mind of the sinful thought and to replace it with “whatever things are true, whatever things are just, whatever things are noble, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” (Philippians 4:8)
The best way for me to meditate is the write down a scripture passage that I am trying to memorize and write it in script and “doodle” around it. As I fill the page with the verse and embellishments, I recite the verse over and over again and let it really absorb in my mind. I am a very fast reader, I believe it’s because I’m dyslexic and I skip many words and piece things together myself, so I have a tendency to miss key points in my skimming style of reading. This doodling is the best way for me to slow my mind and only thing about the verse at hand. I have gone back to this several times over the last couple of years when I am anxious or overloaded with information.
- Memorize scripture. Very similar to the one above. Use this pent up anxiety and energy to memorize the love letter the creator of the universe wrote for you. Commit to memory the attributes of a God who loves you so much he sacrificed His own son for our sorry behinds.
- Count your blessings. Count them. Put pen to paper and number them. It is easy to feel like the earth is going to open up and swallow you whole when things are going south in a hurry. It is easy to forget all the wonderful things God has done for you just in the last 24 hours. Just to get the ball rolling…
- God is still on the throne
- Jesus already died for your sins.
- Heaven awaits you if you have repented of your sins and committed your life to following God.
- Pray for others. We are all so selfish, so I feel like I don’t even need to mention to pray for yourself. Praying for others is a good way to take the focus of yourself and many times when I am anxious or worried that’s exactly what I need.
- Go outside. In the morning. As the sun is setting. When the stars are out. Go outside and look at what God has created. He placed each star where it should be and He spoke this planet in to being and that same God came down and died on a cross for you. Especially in the first few weeks of my diagnosis when I was so anxious my chest felt constricted walking outside, turning my face to the sky with my eye shut, feeling the air hit my face helped me refocus and calm down.
- Accept that you have no control this is not me giving permission to do whatever you please. God gave you a brain and he intends for you to use it. God is sovereign and he placed our leaders in their positions, and we need to follow their guidance. (sorry Democrats… that means he picked Trump. Sorry Republicans…that means he picked Obama.) We need to follow the laws of the land. That means staying home as the governor, the CDC, the State Board of health and everyone else with a microphone has been stating for the last ten days. Outside of taking the proper precautions, it is out of our hands. God is in control and the sooner I realized that it 2018, the happier and less anxious I was. It is a relief to know that it doesn’t depend solely on me.
“Life within God does not mean immunity from the difficulties but peace within the difficulties.”
C. S. Lewis.
Paul in the New Testament had some sort of physical affliction and God used as a reminder to Paul of God’s glory. It kept Paul humble and dependent on God. We need to use our afflictions, our fears, and failures as a reminder that God is God… and we are not. Everything that we do should as John Piper says “should magnify the cross of Christ.”
Some days I miss the fervency that I chased after the things of God with when my life was so chaotic. Whenever I am anxious or fearful it is usually because I have started to slack off in my Bible reading and prayer time. It is usually directly correlated to the amount of time I spend on social media. I do not know how God will use COVID19 for his glory but I know that My God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow and He works everything for His good. (Romans 8:28)