First published on everystudent.com
For many, the Coronavirus (COVID-19) has escalated to an alarming concern. The outbreak continues to add new countries and new deaths to its list.
However, you might feel anxiety over some other threat. Daily we are confronted with all sorts of reasons to feel stressed.
This list is so long: terrorism, climate change, racism, wars, government dysfunction, poverty, sexual assault, human slavery, natural disasters, personal finances, illness, job security, stressful relationships, addictions, etc.
It’s painful to itemize these.
We are no longer merely aware of what’s affecting us personally. The Internet has made us global citizens and we are now aware of serious problems in every corner of the world…every day…every minute.
News outlets feed our fear, our human tendency to pay attention to what is alarming.
However, most of what causes anxiety is very personal. It’s what’s going on in our lives.
It’s that sinking feeling that we can’t control the circumstances. We feel at risk. Powerless. It is the fear of something being done to us, and we can’t escape it or do anything to change it.
Is there a way to experience peace in the midst of this? Yes.
This article will give you real, reliable ways to gain peace in the face of the Coronavirus outbreak or other anxiety-causing circumstances.
First, let’s add a comment here about medications. If you usually struggle with anxiety, if your anxiety causes you to spiral into depression and thoughts of self-harm, please see a doctor for medical help. There might be a chemical imbalance that requires medication. Sometimes there are patterns or pathways in our brains that need medical help in order to form new pathways of thought.
Just like diabetics need insulin, there are medications that allow you to view concerns more objectively and more calmly. Medications have been shown to significantly improve the lives of many who suffer with anxiety.
However, being able to view situations calmly and rationally is only part of a solution. It helps, but it stops short of providing real peace. It’s like a person stopping walking on their broken leg. It helps. But they still have a broken leg.
Being able to hear the coronavirus is subsiding in your country helps, but there are so many other potential causes of anxiety. Life is challenging.
What you need is an inner peace that is enduring, that allows your mind and heart to rest in spite of difficult circumstances.
For years as an atheist, I searched for a philosophy that would always be reliable. I wanted one that would guide me through all of life, and “work” in any situation. I studied Sartre, Plato, Socrates, Dostoyevsky, Nietzsche, Hume, and on and on.
What I came to find out is that a philosophy was insufficient. It still left all the problems squarely on my shoulders.
Some people suggest, “Just view the circumstances differently. Tell yourself it’s not that bad.” It’s hard to view the Coronavirus (COVID-19) differently when thousands of people are being diagnosed with it and the death toll is climbing.
In my search for genuine peace in spite of any circumstance, religion also seemed quite empty. I wasn’t looking for rituals, meditation, or doctrines. They seemed like external props. Like mind games to try to distract people from real problems. Mere positive thinking without substance. A placebo at best.
I knew the potential in life for real difficulties. I wanted to know an approach that would be reliable, no matter what life threw at me.
Many people are hoping that science will find both a cure and prevention of the Coronavirus. However, as viruses go, it is also likely that it will be with us, even in mutated forms, for years. Science is not all-knowing, nor all-powerful.
As I was searching for a source of lasting peace, I became friends with someone whose life I admired. She often talked about God. It caused me to wonder if God actually existed.
The possibility of God’s existence started me on a long process of questioning, researching, and holding resolutely to a lot of strong defenses. The last thing I wanted was to be fooled into believing in something that wasn’t real.
After about a year and a half of serious searching, the evidence for God became too weighty to avoid. It was science that brought me to acknowledge God’s existence…the earth’s perfect position to the sun, the complex properties of water, the design of the human body, etc.
The multitude of scientific facts required for there to be life on earth made it all being due to “chance” nonsensical. I asked God to come into my life in order to have a relationship with him.
I came to find out that indeed, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”1
Knowing God exists and that He actually cares about us has a profound impact on our ability to be at peace no matter what the circumstances. Let me explain.
Picture an 8-year-old little boy being harassed by a bully. His lunch is taken each day. He’s physically pushed around and humiliated for fun. He tries talking to the bully, to no avail. He tries avoiding the bully, which also ends with failure. When he tells his teacher, it too does little good.
Then one day an older student (much bigger than the bully) compassionately steps in, and informs the bully that his days of terrorizing this student are over. The bullied student is now at peace. The bully still exists, but the 8-year-old can relax, because someone greater than him is taking care of him.
We are offered the same help in life. God is greater than any problem that confronts us, including this epidemic virus. He created us and is willing and wants to take care of us.
In the midst of life’s pressures, Jesus tenderly says, “Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”2
This is the God who created the universe, created galaxies of stars and planets, billions of animal and plant species, an intricate ecosystem, and human life. “Nothing is too hard for him.”3 He invites us to come to him for help.
Jesus constantly described God as our “Father” in heaven who loves us.
A good father will protect, provide, teach, love, care for, and sacrifice for his children. He will seek to always assure them of his love.
If you grew up with parents or a father that didn’t love you in this way, then the term “Father” might not be endearing to you. In fact, some people’s anxiety might have started due to their parents or a living situation that instilled deep insecurity and fear. You might have experienced abuse. Neglect. Abandonment.
Experiences like this can skew our view of the world, of ourselves and others. However, a relationship with God brings the start of a new life. Jesus even referred to this as being born again. Life is different, new, once you begin a relationship with him.
One of our greatest fears with the Coronavirus (COVID-19) is going through it alone, or not having the emotional or physical strength to deal with it, on behalf of ourselves or our loved ones. That’s true for anything that scares us. “Will I be able?”
God, who created you, knows everything about you. Your background. Events that have happened to you. Accomplishments. Dreams you have for your life (or lack thereof). Your pain. Your future. Relationships. Absolutely everything. Jesus said He’s aware of the smallest, insignificant details of your life, “Even the hairs of your head are all numbered.”4
“O Lord, you have examined my heart and known everything about me. You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I’m far away…You know everything I do. You know what I am going to say even before I say it…”5
He knows everything about you. The most secure relationship we can have in this world is a relationship with God, who loves us.
God never intended that we would go through this life on our own. God wants to lead us into a different life with his guidance. We don’t need to keep stumbling in the dark, in uncertainty.
Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. He who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”6
We’re invited, “Cast all your anxieties on him, for he cares for you.”7 Any problem we encounter, including a threatening virus, we don’t need to shoulder alone. We can ask him for whatever our need is and in His love and wisdom He can sort it out and act on our prayers exactly like a loving Father would. It doesn’t mean we are spared difficult experiences. A loving father doesn’t prevent struggles, failures, or disappointments.
However, the bottom line is that God can and will take care of us.
I’ve seen God answer prayer more times than I could count. There are also things I’ve asked God for that He has not yet given me. But I know that He sees the big picture, the right time, and He assures us, “…God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God…”8
When I’ve needed direction in my life for important decisions I needed to make, God provided…clearly.
When I’ve been discouraged or frustrated over a situation, He has gently spoken to me, corrected my perspective, giving me His views as I’ve sought Him in the Bible. And His guidance set my feet on solid ground again and gave my heart peace.
I’ve seen God’s love free me from insecurities and give me more compassion for people than I would naturally have.
This is what it’s like to be in a relationship with God, which He offers anyone. The Bible describes God as the wonderful counselor, everlasting father, mighty God, and prince of peace. And He is all that.
At the same time, let me underscore, being in a relationship with God does not mean we avoid life’s problems.
There was a time in my life when I encountered an event that I couldn’t do anything about. At four months of pregnancy, I was told there were problems. I knew God well enough that I could trust Him with this, no matter what the outcome. Our child was born stillborn.
Because I was able to trust God with this, though there was great sadness, I never struggled with bitterness, anger or anxiety.
However, there was an emotion that caught me by surprise. After the death of our child, I began to struggle with fear over the possibility of my husband also dying. I asked God to speak to this fear, to show me how to view it properly.
My answer came soon when God led me to this statement in Psalms:
“Because you have made the LORD your dwelling place—the Most High, who is my refuge – no evil shall be allowed to befall you…”9
I knew that God does not promise that no one will ever die. That just isn’t something God promises. However, with God as my refuge, the one I trust, even if my husband died, God would not allow that to be “evil” in my life. God would not let it overcome me, destroy me, or harm me. I would be ok.
“No evil shall be allowed to befall you.” God sets limits. If we will trust Him, we can go through situations differently…with peace.
Jesus said, “In the world, you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”10
Therefore we’re told, “The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer…let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Is this just wishful thinking? No. Look at the facts of God’s ability and power.
The earth we’re on right now is spinning at about 1,600 km per hour (1,000 miles per hour). Yet we feel perfectly calm, enjoying the beauty of the sunrise and sunset this twirling creates.
The earth is also rotating around the sun, traveling 67,000 mph. Even at this speed, it maintains the perfect distance from the sun, not too far away, not too close.
In the same way that God is in control of the billions of galaxies, God is in control of every large and small detail of your life. And He loves you.
He loves us, not because you or I deserve it, but because it is His nature to love and to take care of those who will trust Him.
God says, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”12
“Have you never heard? Have you never understood? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth. He never grows weak or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding. He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion. But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.”1
Jesus said, “My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”14
He is greater than any problem we can encounter.
Freedom from anxiety about the Coronavirus, (COVID-19) or any serious issue, is knowing that God is capable, He cares and will act on your behalf. To know God in this way you need to first begin a relationship with him.
If you would like to find out how to have a loving relationship with God, read on: Knowing God Personally.
Footnotes: (1) Psalm 46:1 (2) Matthew 11:28 (3) Jeremiah 32:17 (4) Luke 12:7 (5) Psalms 139:1-4 (6) John 8:12 (7) 1Peter 5:7 (8) Romans 8:28 (9) Psalm 91:9,10 (10) John 16:33 (11) Philippians 4:4-7 (12) Isaiah 41:10 (13) Isaiah 40:28-31 (14) John 14:27
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