Worry and anxiety. They're everywhere right now, and many of you have felt them. I know I have.
Certain words and phrases trigger fear, such as “pandemic,” “shelter in place” and “quarantine.” We begin to play the “what if” game. We panic, asking, “What if THIS happens?” or “What if THAT happens?”
We have to be concerned and we have to be diligent – the Coronavirus (COVID-19) is a real and serious virus – but we don’t have to panic.
Did you know that the word “worry” comes from the Old English root word, “wyrgan,” which meant “to strangle” or “to choke”? Worry squeezes the life out of us.
Jesus said, “And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? … Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matthew 6:27, 34 ESV).
One of my personal heroes, Corrie ten Boom, put it this way, “Worrying doesn’t empty tomorrow of its sorrow; it empties today of its strength.”
So, how should we respond to this global health crisis?
Replace worry with faith
We must “...fix [our] thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise” as the apostle Paul tells us in Philippians 4:8 (NLT). These are eight different kinds of things we can fill our minds with!
We can also pray for others. Pray for those who are sick, pray for those who are at risk, pray for the doctors, nurses and researchers who are treating patients and are working to stymie the virus. Pray for the government officials who have to make difficult decisions, and pray for your friends, family members and neighbors. Thinking about others takes the focus off of ourselves and actually helps to reduce our worry and anxiety!
When feeling afraid, worried or anxious, turn to the presence of our Heavenly Father
When a child is afraid of the dark, the best thing to do is to turn on the lights. Then the child needs the presence of an adult, preferably mom or dad, to comfort and reassure them. The same is true for us.
Instead of listening to or reading the news as soon as we open our eyes in the morning or before we go to sleep at night, we can start or end our day with prayer or Bible reading. We can meditate on the hopeful words that God himself gives us in Isaiah 43:2, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.”
Turn our worry into worship
When anxious thoughts come sweeping into our minds, uninvited and unwelcome, we can sweep them back out with praise. We can listen to worship music, sing songs, dance, play instruments and create works of art — or do whatever we do when we express our love for and awe of God.
There will always be something that will frighten us in this life. But in these uncertain days, we can take the time to count our blessings and thank God for his divine provision and protection. We don’t have to be filled with fear, anxiety and worry.
Greg Laurie is the pastor and founder of the Harvest churches in California and Hawaii and of Harvest Crusades. He is an evangelist and a best-selling author. His books include “Hope for Hurting Hearts” and “Johnny Cash: The Redemption of an American Icon.”