Updated: Mar 27, 2020
Many people are trying to navigate through a new time in our recent history of our country: a Stay-At-Home Order from the local and federal government in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. Those with children, like me, have had to figure out how to balance homeschooling our kids, work, house work, home life, and staying sane while doing it. Not to mention all the financial pressures of extra meals, some losing jobs due to mandatory shutdowns, and even trying to find child care while parents are working. The news reports are not helping much either adding to the tension of an already stressful situation in our nation. Being around each other constantly in the confines of your home can be tough when you are used to having personal space, personal time, and less stuff on our already busy to-do list.
I found myself feeling an enormous amount of pressure with all the extra tasks at home with my kids and school work, extra measures and duties in ministry from this outbreak, trying to get all the items from stores to last the next couple weeks, and decisions about ministry travels with all the travel bans. All these things were weighing on me and my family in our spiritual, financial, personal, and physical aspects. From not having the time alone we are all used to, to lack of personal space at periods of time through the day, to extra work for all of us, to the added stress of the whole situation, to the extra costs involved, to the extra things needed at my home church, and not being able to take as much time we are used to for prayer and devotional, we were feeling the effects, to say the least.
I found myself getting short with my wife and kids, snapping at them at times with a harsh loud tone. I found my wife and kids yelling at each other and acting out of character for us as a family. I was in another room folding laundry when I heard this kind of interaction going on while everyone else prepared the table for dinner. I took a moment to think and said to myself, "We don't treat each other like this. Something is off." Then the Lord reminded me that we needed to change how our lives were being managed. We were letting stress and the "cares of this world" rule our life and not the peace of God. We were neglecting personal time with Him personally and as a family. So I did a redirect at the the dinner table with everyone and did a "spiritual reset" of sorts to get us back on track and in the right direction before we totally derailed. I want to share some things the Lord laid on my heart that may hep you navigate through the stress of this life-altering time over the next few weeks. I pray they help you and your family.
First, understand this is temporary and we will eventually get back to a more normal, regular life again. When? We're not sure, but just like every other super flu, it has a short term life and will eventually die off to be a distant memory. Keep that perspective moving forward that this may seem like forever, but it's just a couple weeks and things will start to improve.
Take time to breathe. You need to take some time, especially when you feel overwhelmed, to stop and breathe. The news would have you to believe if you breathe the air, you will get sick. Not true! Don't allow things to overwhelm you and make you afraid to breathe. Take some deep breaths and calm yourself when stress is pressuring you. Get away, go outside and walk to the mailbox or something and just breathe. It's amazing how some fresh air, a moment away from all the things going on, and a few minutes alone to regroup can rejuvenate and refresh you in the heat of craziness.
Prioritizing your day is vital for seeing what is really important verses what can wait to a later time. Make a list of things that need done from most important to least. If you don't get it all done, cut yourself a break and work on it another day. Make sure you don't just fill that list with tasks, but also time to yourself for prayer, reading the word, worship, connecting with Jesus, and decompressing from your day. Pencil in family time for those with a spouse and kids. Make family time a priority! This should be at the top of the list as an important item on the list! It doesn't mean it is the first thing you do in your day, but it should be a part of every day. Plan things you do as a family each day, and add some fun. From board games, movie night, game night, puzzles, etc., find some activities to do that are low impact and light-hearted. Also, plan to have dinner at your dinner table as a family each day. It is an important time where no electronics, T.V.'s, phones, or other distractions are on at all and you interact with one another. Make family devotions a big priority as well as a time of prayer together. It doesn't have to be a long time for it to be an effective and meaningful time.
An example of what we do, since my kids are avid and good readers being 9 and 11 years old, we read the same passage of Scripture individually. We each have a piece of paper and something to write with. We write what we see that stands out to us in the passage. Then we read the passage together out loud and share what we all found and discuss it. We see the Lord speaking to each of us showing us similar things and very different things. We go over questions brought up during the discussion and I usually finish with explaining the passage in context of what is happening and why. In doing this I teach the kids how to study the Bible and establish a pattern of study each day. We end with praying for one another and any requests we have for others or things we want to pray for. It takes as little as 10 minutes to as long as an hour sometimes. But it's always meaningful and never wasted. Try it or come up with your own method but do something to do a devotion as a family.
Make prayer a part of your day several times a day. Jesus, all throughout the Gospels, often went away alone to pray. Especially when He was overwhelmed by crowds, attacks, life, pressures of ministry, frustrated with His followers, and just when sleep wasn't as important as connecting with His Father. If Jesus made prayer such a priority, how much more so should we? No matter how busy things got or how stressful life was, He left us an example of what to do and how to handle it: pray. The most stressful time in His life was when He was about to be handed over to be executed by one of His disciples. He went and prayed in the garden. Pray as a family, pray as a couple (for those who are married), and pray as an individual. Take time to pray, especially when you are overwhelmed and stressed out. Prayer changes things, especially you!
Reading Scripture helps keep you from the pollution of the world, it's message, and it's worldview from infecting your belief system. If all you watch is the news on T.V. and never read Scripture, you will be filled with fear, anxiety, and worry. You have a better report than the evening news report but only if you pick it up and read it each day. Reading Scripture is good, but praying through it and applying it to your life is what makes the word effective. Remember to let love rule your hearts and never let it grow cold in serving God, loving others, and doing the day-to-day grind.
Here is some verses for you to read over the next week. Watch the difference it makes when you read and put them into practice this week.
Matthew 24:12-13 And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But he who endures to the end shall be saved.
John15:15-18 "If you love Me, keep My commandments. 16 And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper (Comforter), that He may abide with you forever-- 17 the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.
John 16:33 "These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."
Romans 8:15 For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out "Abba Father."
Philippians 4:6-9 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy--meditate on these things. 9 The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.
2 Timothy 1:7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.
Hebrews 13:5-6 Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you." 6 So we may boldly say: "The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?"
That's 7 passages of Scripture; 1 for each day if you only read 1 a day. I encourage you to read them all every day. It will really make a difference when we let the love of Christ rule our hearts, allow the Holy Spirit to be our Helper and Comforter, and let the word of God work to cleanse, purify, calm, and transform our minds. So remember to take time to keep a proper perspective, to breathe when you're overwhelmed, to prioritize the things of your day, make God, yourself, your family a main priority, pray, and read and apply Scripture to your life daily while letting the love of Christ rule your hearts. Do this, and you will do well to navigate through this difficult time.