(K-LOVE Pastors) -- Right now, we find ourselves in the middle of a season that is new for all of us. The Novel Coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic has displaced our ordinary lives. You may be feeling unprepared for this season and perhaps you are struggling to know what to do next and how to stay healthy. Thankfully, God is never caught off guard.
We hope this field guide can serve as a helpful tool for you.
Below we look at five key areas of life where we find ourselves impacted right now: Emotional, Physical, Spiritual, Social, and Mental.
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We have tried to present guiding biblical principles and practical steps that you can take to stay healthy and whole during this new season. We are all learning right now, so let's turn to God to get through this time together.
Managing Your Emotions -by Jordan, Pastoral Care Team
"Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need and thank him for all he has done. 7 Then you will experience God's peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:6-7 (NLT)
This is a scary time. The COVID-19 outbreak has impacted everyone in one way or another. The emotional impact of this virus has infected everyone.
It is crucial right now that we guard our hearts. In this time of fear, we can surrender our emotions to Christ (who has experienced all our feelings) by following biblical principles. This will allow us to be a thermostat – setting the emotional temperature – rather than a thermometer – just reflecting the emotional climate around you.
Action Steps: Have times to share your heart. We can't manage our emotions alone. We need to create spaces to connect with our own feelings and the feelings of others. You can do this by planning regular time for you and your family or friends to express how you are all feeling without judgment. It may also prove helpful in this time to reach out to someone else to talk to about your emotions. Feel free to call our pastoral team to connect and receive prayer. (844)364-HOPE(4673).
Find ways to express what you are feeling. Some of us have been taught that emotions like fear, anger, or sadness are wrong and shouldn't be shown. But the Bible is full of poems where the authors express deep concern and sadness. We can allow ourselves to share them in a healthy and comforting way. Write a poem or journal about what you are feeling. This allows our emotions to emerge in ways that are constructive rather than destructive.
Create ‘and yet’ moments to shift guard your heart. After giving yourself and others the space to experience and express what you are feeling, you can manage your emotions. Often in Psalms of deep sadness, there will come the point when the author says something like ‘and yet…’ then moves onto listing the ways they still see God moving. Make a list of things you are thankful for. If you are struggling, read an encouraging passage of scripture or take a walk to experience God's goodness.
Practice moments of joy. In dark times, we sometimes feel that we are only ‘allowed’ to experience negative emotions. This isn't healthy. With all the isolation, fear, and stress, we would quickly find ourselves overwhelmed if we did not include joyful practices in our daily lives. Enjoy a good book, laugh at a funny video, or have a pleasant conversation that has nothing to do with the virus. This reminds us that even in times of fear, joy can still be had. We may never experience a time of quarantine again. It can be very emotionally healthy to have fun with it! As you think and pray about your emotional health right now, here is a helpful prayer to lift up to the Lord:
“God, help me to be honest about what I am feeling and explore my heart in healthy ways. Help me to control my emotions, rather than letting them control me. In the middle of my fear, help me to still find ways to practice joy. Amen.”
Maintaining Physical Health - by Pastor Val
"Don't you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body." 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NLT)
How do we treat our ‘temples’? We often think that our health issues are a result of the enemy attacking us. That can be true, but most of the time, we can do something about our physical health. It's our responsibility to choose what helps us maintain good physical health. So here are some practical ways we can take care of our physical health during this time. And remember, don't be too hard on yourself! Give yourself grace as you may be trying something new.
Action Steps: Schedule time to exercise outdoors. Take a morning, afternoon, or evening walks. Go for a run, a hike, or maybe even try a new activity outdoors. Most gyms are now closed, so use this time to soak in the fresh air outside and enjoy God's beautiful creation. Take a socially-distanced walk or run with a friend. Participate in non-contact activities.
Schedule time to exercise indoors. Thanks to YouTube, there are thousands of in-home exercises you can do for free! Remember, to maintain a healthy immune system, physical activity must be a priority during this time. The benefits of being physically active are endless. Don't feel pressured to exercise for a long time. Give yourself grace.
Drink plenty of water. Make it a priority. Something that's helped me is carrying a water bottle with me for easy access. Choosing water instead of sweet beverages will help you avoid overeating and watch your weight.
Play games with your family. What a time to build and invest in our families! Take your kids to the park, go on walks, throw the ball around, and get creative. The Centers for Disease Control recommend sixty minutes of physical activity each day for children and teens. Breaking the sixty minutes into three sessions makes this goal much more attainable. Remember, what counts is that you're moving! If you're a competitive person, issue an exercise challenge to a friend to make it fun!
Create a daily routine. Making a daily routine and sticking to it will help you achieve your physical goals. And remember, celebrate small victories! In fact, go ahead and reward yourself for your progress.
On a personal note, I would like to share something. Growing up, I played sports, and I struggled with how I viewed my body. It took me a while to understand Psalm 139:14, which states, "Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex." I heard this verse in church so many times, but I still struggled. It wasn't until a couple of years ago that I began to truly understand the importance of having a good view of our bodies. Our bodies are designed beautifully by our creator. We need to see our bodies healthily. Let's take care of our temples. And let’s give ourselves grace in the process. Here is a prayer to aid you as you focus on your physical health.
“Jesus, help me to remember that you have called me to treat my body like a sacred place. Help me not to forget that you have created my body and called it good. Help me to care for it because it is a gift that reflects you. Amen.”
Maintaining Your Spiritual Walk - by Pastor Jeff
"Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness." Colossians 2:7 (NLT)
When a crisis like COVID-19 hits, it's normal for your daily routine to be disrupted. Most of us have never faced a global pandemic before. It can be scary and challenging to navigate. When your world gets turned upside down, one of the best things you can do is to develop healthy habits to support you.
In Acts 2:42-47, the early followers of Jesus began developing habits that would change their lives. They spent time in prayer, fellowship, worship, helping each other, and learning more about the way of Jesus. These habits helped them thrive spiritually and change the world.
Author and speaker John C. Maxwell wrote, "You will never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine."
What HABITS can you cultivate during the COVID-19 crisis that can not only nourish your soul but change your world?
H = Have a quiet time. Schedule time to pray and read scripture daily. Get into God's word and let God's word get into you. Make a list of encouraging Scriptures, keep them someplace handy, and memorize them. Spend time in silence and solitude, so you are in a better place to hear from God.
You may need to physically distance yourself from others, but you should never spiritually distance yourself from the Lord. Cast your cares on him because he cares for you (1 Peter 5:7). As you spend time with the Lord, be sure to praise him for who he is and the blessings you have during this crisis.
A = Attend church online. Don't get out of the routine of participating in a weekly worship service. Find a church online and gather with other believers each week to praise God and learn from his word.
B = Break to fast. Fasting is merely giving something up to spend more time in prayer. It's a great way to energize your prayer life as you intercede to him about COVID-19. Consider giving up a meal, social media, Netflix, etc. for a few minutes – or even a day – each week to lift the COVID-19 crisis up in prayer. Ask other believers you know to fast with you.
I = Invest in godly relationships. Jump on FaceTime or a Zoom call with other believers each week. Share what you're learning and how you're holding up. Encourage and pray for each other.
T = Take a sabbath. Set aside at least one day a week to rest. Fill that day with positive activities that fill you up. Spend extra time connecting with your Heavenly Father and the people you love.
S = Serve others. Look for ways to help around the house, at work, and in your community. Find out where the needs are and do your best to meet those needs in love.
Here is a prayer for your spiritual walk in this season:
“Heavenly Father, thank you for being with me in the middle of this storm. Help me to build the habits I need to nourish my soul and the souls of others. Fill me with your strength, peace, and wisdom. In Jesus' Name, Amen.”
Maintaining Social Connection - by Jordan, Pastoral Care Team
"And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near." Hebrews 10:25
For most of us, the COVID-19 pandemic has meant being quarantined in some fashion. This has hurt the regular social routines of our lives. Workplaces, churches, and public gatherings have been largely shut down, leaving us wrestling with loneliness.
In this time, more than ever, it is essential to be socially conscious by maintaining good social connections and finding ways to help others. We were created in Christ for the community, so we mustn't lose sight of this right now. If we focus on taking biblical steps, we can continue to maintain good social connections and find ways to love others as we would like to be treated. If you haven't thought about connecting with others, I challenge you to remember that God made us for connection with others. It decreases the risk for depression and can have significant benefits for our bodies and mind!
Action Steps: Find creative ways to connect with people. If you are quarantined with family (or close friends) now is the perfect time for establishing intentional time with your loved ones through structured and planned activities together, like a weekly board game night.
It is also crucial to continue to "go" to church. Many churches are holding online services and it can be a great idea to video chat with other members to keep that fellowship alive. Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat can be beneficial for replacing some of the missing social interaction. But remember that if used too much they can add to our stress and isolation. Don't let social media replace your time with the family who is with you.
Have conversations of the heart. Reach out to someone who is hurting and allow them to be heard. If you are hurting, reach out to someone else. Just because we can't be face to face does not mean we have to be alone. There are really great online communities popping up during this season for people to gather around interests. You can find online groups that sing together, take virtual museum tours, or a reading group. These can be great creative ways to have meaningful conversations with others you may not have had otherwise.
Be generous in your community. God always calls us to seek the betterment of the communities we are in. There is a lot of hurt around us right now that it can be easy to ignore, but it can also be easy to help. Let's reach out to the vulnerable (elderly, those with compromised immune systems) to see if we can help them get groceries. Do your best to get what you can from hurting small business (my local coffee shop is delivering). Give financially to charities or individuals if you can. In general, let's be gracious so we can all help each other, and, please do not hoard. Hoarding only hurts others.
Make time to celebrate. Celebrations are so crucial to our social lives. We see God set up constant celebrations throughout scripture. At this time, celebrating will look very different, but we can still hold a birthday party through video chat. We can always write to our spouses or loved one's little notes. We can always thank those who are risking their lives right now, including medical personal and overlooked individuals like grocery baggers and food delivery folks.
If we continue to be intentional about our social health, we may just find that we emerge from this with stronger relationships than before. Here is a brief prayer that may help you during this season:
“Lord, in this season of separation, help me to plant seeds in my relationships. Help me to find creative ways to cultivate your love in my community. Let others see you by my love and grace. Amen.”
Taking Your Thoughts Captive – by Jordan, Pastoral Care Team
"We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ." 2 Corinthians 10:5 (NLT)
When crisis strikes, our mental health can suffer if we are not intentional in taking care of it. So how can we take care of our mental health during such a stressful time?
Action Steps: First, remember you are not alone. I want to begin here because of the feelings of anxiety, fear, and the immense pressure you feel right now are normal. Everyone is feeling the effects of this virus.
Limit your exposure to the news. We are supposed to make well-informed decisions. This requires us to keep up with the current events. However, too much news, social media, and mindless scrolling will lead to clutter in our minds and reduce our mental clarity. Remember to take those thoughts of fear captive when they arise. It can be helpful to find comfort in good news, scripture, worship music, encouraging friends, and simple small activities like a puzzle when the fear of news creeps in. We just want to avoid turning to unhealthy addictive behaviors for comfort.
Create a daily routine and stick to it. Creating a daily routine and sticking to it will help reduce your anxiety. Finding an activity that is life-giving to you will help you adapt to the new normal. Whenever our daily routine is disrupted, this brings discomfort and anxiety. This is why we must create a new normal. Adaptation is vital here.
Establish supports. If you need help, don't hesitate to reach out for help. If you need to reach out to a mental health professional, don't hesitate. We are all in this together. You don't have to fight this battle alone. The Lord is with you and will never leave you. However, we mustn't eliminate our need for God's family during this time. Let's lean on one another. If that means making a Facetime call or sending a text, don't hesitate.
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Set your heart and mind on things above. Any good counselor will ask the question, "Who's voice are you listening to?" That's an excellent question to ask ourselves during this virus. Let's listen to what God has to say. Let's meditate and speak out the word of God. Consider meditating on this scripture out of Isaiah 41:10-"Don't be afraid, for I am with you. Don't be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand." (Isaiah 41:10 NLT)
Focus on what you can control. Things like washing your hands, a proper diet, exercise, and good sleep all play a role in good mental health. Focus on what you can control.
Here is a prayer you can pray to the Lord as you seek to maintain good mental health:
“Lord, during this time of uncertainty, help me to set my heart and mind on things above. Strengthen my mind, fill me with your peace, and help me to cast my cares upon you because you care for me. Amen.”
God desires us to live whole lives that are guided by his principles in all areas. Hopefully, this field guide has helped you to see real steps you can take to stay healthy in every area of your life during this time. We know that working through these ideas has undoubtedly helped us to adjust to this new season and hope to invite you to that journey with us.
As you are thinking through these steps, here is a helpful table you can print out (or make yourself) to plan out what action steps you plan to take each day of the week:
Please know that you can always reach out to us for support. Our Care Team and Pastors would love to connect with you and support you during this time. We can be reached at (844)364-HOPE(4673).