According to England’s National Health Service, there is a “second pandemic” coming. “Nearly ten million people in England, including 1.5 million children, are projected to need care for mental health issues such as psychosis, depression, anxiety, and eating disorders.” This is no small number and certainly, no conditions are to be taken lightly. These problems are brought on by the stress of lockdowns, mandates, and other impositions of governmental responses to the coronavirus crisis. As believers, we have the Lord Jesus Christ, the rock (Psalm 18:2), to stand on during these times. Shouldn’t we be above these issues or at least able to successfully weather these storms?
Feeling the stress of it all
I’m a believer and honestly, I am struggling with these same issues. I don’t know that I can clinically claim to have these conditions but I certainly feel stress, anxiety, anxiousness, upset, anger, and a myriad of other fun-crushing feelings caused not only by the COVID lockdowns and mandates but add to those threats to our freedoms, war, financial calamities, you name it. To be totally open, I don’t like the world I am living in. It’s not the world I grew up in. It’s not the world I imagined I would ever live in and not the world I planned for. I’m not a happy camper.
Peter’s water-walking example
This situation reminds me of the Apostle Peter who successfully was walking on the water as described best in Matthew 14:22-33. But as the winds swirled around him he began to slowly sink into that same water. The winds swirling around him sound too much like the world I am living in. What a great analogy for today’s troubles.
Matthew 14:22-33 Immediately He made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side, while He sent the crowds away. After He had sent the crowds away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray; and when it was evening, He was there alone. But the boat was already a long distance from the land, battered by the waves; for the wind was contrary. And in the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea. When the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” Peter said to Him, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” And He said, “Come!” And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and *said to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” When they got into the boat, the wind stopped. And those who were in the boat worshiped Him, saying, “You are certainly God’s Son!” [Emphasis added]
What Peter’s example teaches
We can learn from Peter’s experience by looking at what he did and what he didn’t do.
First, he saw the wind, or the effects of it anyway. Anyone who has experienced high winds knows the effects can be devastating and certainly not to be discounted. Point being, he was looking around at his physical situation. Assumedly this means he took his eyes off Jesus. Rather than looking to Jesus, he focused on the conditions around him.
Secondly, he became frightened. Peter was reacting to what he was seeing rather than to Jesus’ unseen power. Since faith is the conviction of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1), maybe this is why Jesus said to him “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”
Thirdly, he began to sink. Peter didn’t do this, it was a natural outcome of his little faith and doubt. That sinking feeling, could that describe the feelings I have when I am looking around at my world? Could that be the basis for the second pandemic of mental health issues?
Fourthly, Jesus took hold of him and helped him back into the boat. Jesus then calmed Peter’s anxiety by stopping the wind. This display of love and grace cannot be overlooked. Peter displayed a lack of faith in Jesus right to His face yet Jesus reached out to keep Peter from sinking. He also calmed his world in a way that Peter needed at the time by stopping the wind. This of course showed God’s power over all things never seen before.
Following this analogy, I personally have successfully accomplished the first two parts. I have taken my eyes off Jesus and looked around at my world. By my actions, I have trusted in what I see rather than in Jesus. I have even gotten caught up in the third part and am sinking in the mire of stress, anxiety, anxiousness, upset, anger et al. That’s three for three.
Can I count on the fourth step in the process? This is where Jesus takes action. So therefore I can count on the fourth part coming true. However, notice that Peter actually did play a part here. He had the option to reject Jesus and continue to sink but he chose to accept Jesus’ reaching out to him.
The Sunday School answer – focus on Jesus
Well, that’s good. I now know the problem and the answer to my conditions. The problem is me and the answer is Jesus. More specifically, the answer is to bolster my faith, focus on Jesus, and don’t doubt that He has everything in control. That’s a nice Sunday School answer. Easy to say but a bit difficult to do when all the world’s problems are thrown in my face every day. If it was easy, Peter would have walked to the shore, but that didn’t happen.
The practical answer – back to the basics
So how do I ignore the world I live in and focus on Jesus? I can’t completely ignore my world. I would be useless to anyone. I need to stay fairly well informed but not paralyzed by my world events. As to what I can do, fortunately, there is a long list of answers and none of them are wrong. I will list a few of the top picks. Before you think I am giving you more Sunday School answers note that I am indeed giving you Sunday School answers. It’s called going back to the basics. Sometimes in this hectic world, spelled “your life” we forget the basics. If you are having anxiety from all the upheaval going on today maybe you have fallen off the basics wagon. Don’t feel bad about that, we all do. Peter did, and look how he turned out.
Here are just 5 things you can do to get back on the basics wagon.
Praise God – When breaking camp, as Israel was marching toward the Promised land, the tribe of Judah, which means praise, was to be the first tribe to head out (Numbers 2:9). God, who loves symbology, was showing that praise should always be first when we do things. Therefore the first thing we need to do is praise God for all that He is, does, and how He is involved in your world. This is a true confession of faith in Him. This is the start of the healing process.
Read the Bible – Romans 10:17 says, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” Just the action of reading the Bible alone will bolster your faith. Why? Because God says His Word does not return empty but rather accomplishes His purpose (Isaiah 55:11). It’s certainly God’s will that your faith grows so count on it to do so.
Pray without ceasing – What a great time to talk to the one person who loves you, want’s the best for you, and can actually do something about it. Tell Him through prayer what is on your heart, what is weighing your heart down and causing you to sink.
Fellowship with believers – Similarly, it helps to share what is on your heart to close believers. They don’t need to answer or advise you, just listen. Choose them wisely as you don’t need friends like Job had that blamed his troubles on his sin. You need ones that can listen without judging, listen without answering. You may find out they are going through the same thing as you. How great is that? By way of example, the Apostles themselves continually devoted themselves to fellowship (Acts 2:42).
Study & meditate on scripture – Similar to reading the Bible, go the extra mile and do some poking around in scripture. Study it (Acts 17:11). It doesn’t have to relate to your issues. Just connecting the dots in scripture is fulfilling and keeps your mind off the winds of your world. If you are busy scratching your head over questions in the scripture you will not be worrying over the news de jure.
Peace proves the answer
When your world is swirling all around you and it’s sinking your ship, maybe it’s time to get back to the basics. If these steps soothe your apprehension over the winds of worry, what more proof is there that these steps are correct? In time you will start feeling that peace which surpasses all comprehension as promised in Philippians 4:6-7.