Like most people, my world has been thrown into a spin with the pandemic. I am very disturbed at the total lockdown of the sacraments. I can understand stopping public church services, but eliminating all sacraments–even private visits to homes or private confessions seems very draconian. However, with so much that is uncertain about the virus, I can understand that all leaders wish to err on the side of caution. Most people reacted at first by denying there was a major problem. That’s natural. It was my reaction too. We have yet to see just how major the problem is, but better safe than sorry.
Having our world turned upside down with a pandemic is bound to make people worry. We worry about our own health. Will we get sick? Will it be serious? Will we die? If we are elderly or have underlying health concerns the worries increase. Then we worry about our loved ones. If we have elderly friends and family members we worry about them. Then there is the larger scale of concern. Will the health care system break down? What if this goes on far longer than they think and there is social breakdown? What will happen if the infrastructure and systems begin to crumble? What if there is total economic burnout?
All of these worries and more are bound to hit us. So what can you do to stop worrying? Here are ten ideas:
- Stop Watching the Bad News – We all stop to rubberneck at car crashes. It’s hard not to stop and stare, but for goodness’ sake don’t check the news channels every five minutes. The bad news is there. The world is in lockdown because of a pandemic. People are worried. People are sick. Some are dying. We know that and there is little we can do about the big problems. So. Check the news in the morning and in the evening. Weight the bad news with the good news. Things are bad, but many people are working together to treat the sick and find new ways to battle the disease. I’m not saying put your head in the sand and adopt some kind of artificial optimism. Be realistic, but don’t get caught up in a bad news tailspin.
- Pray the News – After you get your news update take it to the Lord in prayer. You check the morning news then you say your morning prayers. You check the evening news then you say your evening prayers. How does prayer help? Prayer unleashes God’s power in the world. Your prayers will help to strengthen and protect those working to fight the disease. Your prayers will strengthen and help those suffering from the disease. Your prayers will help the bereaved, the anxious and the depressed. Your prayers will also help you to remain calm, focused and trusting in God
- Take Up a New Interest of Hobby If you are in lockdown take the time to read those books and engage in that study or special interest you have always been meaning to do. Take more exercise. Read some new books. Paint or draw. Get out the cookbook and made some fantastic meals. Bake. This is not only good in itself, but it will take your mind off your worries.
- Read the Psalms – The psalms are ancient poems often written by people in trouble. Psalm 27, 62, 91 are all good ones in times of anxiety. The psalms emphasize the need to put our trust in God.
- Take One Day at a Time – Remember Jesus’ teaching: “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” If you are well today and have what you need today thank God. If tomorrow illness strikes you or your loved ones, God will be there to walk you through it. “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil, for you are with me.” (Ps.23)
- Reach Out to Others – By phone and email be in contact with friends, family and fellow church members who may be lonely or afraid. Just a short phone call means much to people and it will help to take your mind off the worries.
- Memorize anti-worry reminders – Memorize a Bible verse or a memorable anti-worry quote like, “Worry will not change the bad, but it will cause you not to see the good.” or “Don’t worry. Pray” or “He’s got the whole world in his hands.” or “Do not worry about tomorrow. Today has troubles enough.”
- Remember the big picture Mankind has been here before. We have worked together to overcome plagues, wars, famines and all sorts of terrible disasters. Our parents and grandparents lived through depressions and wars in which every day was filled with terrible fears, worries and genuine losses. People rally around. We’ll pull through.
- Encourage One Another – Talk things through. Express your fears and concerns. Listen to others. Worry is worst when it gnaws away as an inner fear. Bring it out and talk about it. A worry shared is a worry halved.
- Make an Act of Faith – The Act of Faith is a prayer by which we put our trust and faith in God alone. Another simple act of faith is to say, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, Into your hands I commend my spirit.” When we truly, completely and simply put ourselves into God’s hands it is amazing how the worry simply evaporates. We are in Christ Jesus, and we claim the promise from St Paul to the Romans: “What will separate us from the love of Christ? Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword? As it is written: “For your sake we are being slain all the day; we are looked upon as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Finally, may the Lord use this time to strengthen the faith, hope and love in our hearts. May we take time to re-assess our priorities and realize that life is short and uncertain. This is not a dress rehearsal. Thank God for the good we have and enjoy those blessings. Use time wisely and in our heart of hearts ask for the gift to love God and others as we ought before it is too late.
For point seven, I’ve always been a big proponent of Padre Pio’s “Pray, Hope, and Don’t Worry”. I tell myself that daily…multiple times!