Some Practical Guidance on Getting Through The Coronavirus Epidemic
From Pastor Dennett Buettner
Everybody is telling everybody else their favorite tips for surviving the coronavirus pandemic, so here are mine to add to the pile.
1. It will help to have a schedule. None of us has ever before done a pandemic. If we’ve been used a certain schedule, that’s gone. Many of us are having a crash course in living a virtual life. We can’t control a lot right now: how long we’ll be isolated, or even whether we or loved ones become ill. We can control our time. Our natural temptation will be to put off any task we perceive as fearful or uncomfortable. Having a schedule can help us avoid this tendency.
2. Maintain time with God. This can admittedly be difficult to do for both external and internal reasons. If you live with other people, it’s going to be harder to get separation for individual time with God; and in any event, it is often harder to hear God when we are feeling fearful or stressed. If you live with others, develop a rhythm of prayer together. As an individual go with your strengths: if you like listening to music, listen to music; if you find comfort in praying the psalms, pray the psalms. If you hear best when you’re moving and you can take a walk outside (6’ away from others), then do that. On the other hand, if you’ve not yet learned your personal rhythm of connecting with God, this can be a great time to experiment and try out something you haven’t done.
3. Get exercise. Anxiety and depression ordinarily accompany us in stressful times. (Why do you think Paul commanded the Philippians (4:6) to “have no anxiety”? He didn’t waste time addressing non-existent situations.) Exercise is a great way to fight depression—and it’s good for our physical health also. If you are able to get out and take a walk, do so. If you have stretching that you already do, keep it up. There are many online resources to help you develop a light exercise habit if you don’t already have one.
4. Watch media news outlets sparingly, if at all. Media sources can focus excessively on the worst aspects of any story. If you can watch video footage of people standing outside hospitals waiting to see if there will even be a bed for them and immediately turn that into intercession, then this paragraph does not apply to you. Some of us do have that very hard gifting and calling. You need to keep it up and intensify it, as much as you can. The rest of us are not benefited greatly if at all by all the imagery and will do better to heed Paul’s further counsel to the Philippians (4:8) to keep our primary focus on whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent or praiseworthy.
5. But don’t isolate. Especially when we are deprived of normal human interaction, and physical presence, it becomes even more important than ever to work at staying connected. Call or text a friend. Message them on Facebook. Send an email. Try to have some human contact at least every day.
6. Look for opportunities to serve. Service to others is the Twelfth Step in the recovery process for a reason. It gets our eyes off ourselves and our problems, gives us perspective, and in a time of crisis is vitally needed by the recipients. It also helps us obey Jesus’ second Great Commandment to love our neighbor as ourself. Check online, with your church, with helping organizations, with friends, and find ways to make this crisis a little less hard for all of us who are in it together.
7. Beware “shoulds”. “Shoulds” are counterfeits of God’s instructions to us. They usually come from our own anxious thoughts, and can be prompted by the enemy of our souls in order to get our eyes off Jesus and his love for us. Take this down time from other people to become better acquainted with the loving voice of your Lord, who will never tell us we “should” do anything but who sometimes tells us we “must.” If you’re hearing something and wondering which it is, we still have the telephone and internet. Reach out to your pastors, or a trusted Christian friend or two and ask for their perspective.