The novel coronavirus pandemic has certainly arrested everyone’s attention in terms of global health and safety. Many ‘normal’ social practices have become unacceptable – even dangerous. I’ve heard some people have received fines for coughing and sneezing inappropriately or greeting each other in violation of social distancing rules.
DeepEnglish.com tells us,
“There’s an amazing diversity of greeting customs around the world. In Tibet, sticking out your tongue can be a way of welcoming people. In New Zealand, Maori greet each other by touching noses. Ethiopian men touch shoulders, and in the Democratic Republic of Congo, male friends touch foreheads. In many Asian countries, people bow to each other when meeting. And in some European and Arab countries, hugs or kisses on the cheek are more the norms. While this wasn’t always true, the most common physical way to greet people around the world is now the handshake. The history of the handshake dates back to the 5th century B.C. in Greece. It was a symbol of peace, showing that neither person was carrying a weapon; some say that the gesture of the handshake started in Medieval Europe. Knights would shake the hand of others in an attempt to shake loose any hidden weapons.”
The new physical protocols of COVID- 19 have negatively affected our mental health. Our lack of freedom and the fear of sickness and death creates trepidation.
The Bible has a lot to say about the health and well-being of our soul. The Apostle John wrote a letter to his friend and colleague, Gaius, highlighting the importance of mental health, “Dear friend, I pray that you are doing well in every way and that you are healthy, just as your soul is healthy.” 3 Jn. 1:2. So how do people maintain a healthy soul during times of unprecedented panic, hysteria and uncertainty?
Recognize shock and denial
During the early days of this pandemic, many of us were simply reacting in shock and denial. No one expected the world to stand still, non-essential businesses to close their doors, and streets to be laid bare. The shock of rising infection rates and increasing deaths all over the world began to sink into our minds. Even weeks into the pandemic, some people were in denial of the highly contagious nature of this virus and the potential destruction it could cause for those who were immunocompromised, elderly, or suffering from underlying health concerns. Many people suffering from shock and denial began to sink into fear, panic, confusion, and numbness, while others tried to find people and organizations to blame. These are all-natural human responses when people feel out of control. Psalm 94:19 provides great wisdom in moments of shock and denial, “When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.” God has promised never to leave us, nor forsake us in times of trouble. His consoling presence brings health to our soul. Our soul must dwell in the spiritual presence of Jesus every day through worship, the Word and prayer.
Be angry, but don’t sin
For some people, shock and denial quickly changed into anger, frustration and anxiety after the physical threat of coronavirus transitioned into a material threat to their financial health. Many people lost their jobs, closed their businesses, and lost significant investment income. Anger is not a sin, but it can lead people into the snare of sinful behaviour. Paul instructed the Ephesians, saying, “Don’t sin by letting anger control you.
Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil.” Eph. 4:26-27. Your soul is allowed to be angry for the most righteous reasons behind this emotion. A soul that prospers during an epidemic forbids Satan from gaining a stable position of sin and bitterness in their life.
Battle depression and despair
While it may be difficult for people to find hope in a catastrophic situation, it is often easier to ‘put our hope’ in God’s sovereignty.
Several times, in the 42nd and 43rd Psalm, this question is asked, “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Saviour and my God.” The psalmist is giving his soul a pep talk. Feelings of despair and hopelessness are so real during any pandemic. While it may be impossible to change our circumstances, it is possible to change our focus. The psalmist provides a spiritual vaccine for the downcast soul; it is a healthy injection of remembering. Remember the mighty power, presence and provision of God during every season of life.
God has promised never to abandon His children, especially in times of trouble and hardship.
Practice antithetical isolation
We must obey the restrictions by our public health authority in terms of physical distancing and shelter-in-place directives in order to protect the most vulnerable people of our society, however, the Bible is quite clear that mankind was designed for relationships with God and with each other. Humans were not created for social isolation. Our strategies for antithetical isolation must be robust and creative if we want our souls to prosper.
We must develop alternate methods to empower and sustain healthy relationships and we must use technology that allows visual and audible communication.
Don’t forget, daily prayer, worship and God’s Word are not dependent on the Internet! We can develop our relationship with God, anywhere and anytime.
Maintain a meaningful purpose in your life
Jesus gave His followers an important mission to accomplish, during His absence from the earth. The great commission has not been rescinded or negated due to the novel coronavirus.
Check your friend list on Facebook, or your contact list to find someone who might need a word of encouragement.
Send them a card in the mail, or better yet, give them a telephone call. Remember when people would simply call each other? Meaningful conversations provide purpose and focus for everyone’s life. A friend of mine decided to visit every house on her street during these days of social isolation. She simply knocked on the door, and left a tulip on their doorstep, with a note of neighbourly love. She provided her phone number and invited people to call if they were feeling lonely or isolated.
So far, she has encouraged 37 families in her neighbourhood. She has found a new purpose during this season of seclusion.
Allow Jesus Christ to form and shape your character
The COVID-19 crisis will not form a person’s character; it will simply reveal it. We must all do a bit of soul searching to find the nuggets of Christ-like character that were deposited in our soul when we became children of God. “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God. Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel.” Phil. 1:9-12