February 2, 2021 | by Pastor Scott Boerckel

These past 10 months have sorely tried our bodies and our souls. The challenges of life in the midst of a pandemic are great indeed. In this article, I want to describe three threats to our peace of mind in this season and to offer some hope and counsel from the scriptures.

COVID-19

The first threat is COVID-19 itself. However, even this is complicated. By now, most acknowledge that COVID-19 exists and that it has been harmful to some people. However, one sort of surprising challenge is that people of faith, sincere believers, can disagree quite widely on the nature, significance, solution, and prevention of COVID-19. As to the nature of COVID-19, opinions range from a plot by the Chinese to an animal virus that jumped to humans. As to significance, opinions range from as insignificant as the flu to a threat that could kill millions more. As for solutions, opinions range from nothing to essential oils and vitamin D to hydroxychloroquine to a vaccine. As for prevention, opinions range from nothing to masks and distancing to total isolation. In fact, all four of those areas have such a wide range of opinions that one could almost say that very few of us agree perfectly on all four matters.

It is this variety of opinion that is just as troubling to our souls as the pandemic itself. We wonder, “How in the world can so-and-so think this?!” when it is as clear as crystal to us that they are most assuredly wrong. In such an environment, we are tempted to follow news items which confirm our views and ignore those that challenge them. It’s tempting to do the same with people, whether our family or church family or neighbors, and seek to avoid any who would disagree with us and embrace any who would affirm our viewpoint. Since there are so many viewpoints, this has an increasingly isolating effect over time. Our positions can become narrower and narrower until there is no one left except for me and my wife (and I might have some doubts about her!).

In this environment, as your pastor, I have sought to share my very best with you on the wide range of COVID-19 challenges. Your elders have sought to chart a course to navigate the challenges of COVID-19 which would promote our seeking to be worshipers, maturing in Christ. We seek to do that in a way that demonstrates the reality of life in this pandemic, acknowledging that nearly everyone will have some manner of disagreement in approach, some with significant disagreement. We have sought also to love our neighbors as ourselves, so we have not attempted to be the outlier or exception to commonly held community practices. If we are to make disciples of our neighbors, let it be that the stumbling block be Christ, not some COVID-19 protocol. We have tried to be sensitive to local conditions. Where COVID-19 infections have risen dramatically in our community, we have lowered our in-person engagement. When those infections have declined, we have reengaged.

But even here there is an anxiety. We long for fellowship with our brothers and sisters, no matter how we may disagree on COVID-19 matters. The very fact of the physical distancing, combined with disagreement on these matters, can lead to a sense of isolating anxiety for us all. We wish that we would not disagree, and yet we do. We wish that COVID-19 were gone, and yet it remains with us.

Politics

A second threat to our peace of mind as believers in Jesus is the political environment. Here also, there is wide disagreement over a wide range of issues. One sort of surprising challenge is that people of faith, sincere believers in the Lord Jesus, can disagree about so many things in the world of politics. From the mere mention of former President Trump, one can elicit quite remarkably wide-ranging reactions from sincere believers in Christ. Equally remarkable is the level of hopefulness or despair at the prospect of the new administration. That is only the tip of the iceberg. Christians disagree about the role of government. Christians disagree about the way that the church ought to respond to the issues of the day. Christians disagree regarding the role of the church in speaking to current events, cultural trends, and the inevitable intersection of morality and public policy. Additionally, the current political winds are moving strongly against the Christian worldview, so much so that many believers are anxious that days of genuine persecution are ahead.

It is not my intention to fan the flames of controversy here. My intention is to note just how painful and isolating it is when we discover that someone that we love disagrees so fundamentally on politics. We can feel the need to “circle the wagons”. We can interpret everything in life through the lens of politics. We can become fearful of the future when we see some politician succeed or another one fail. This is made even more painful when someone we love is on the opposite side of that divide.

Isolation

A final threat to our peace of mind is quite temporary but nonetheless real. The pandemic has isolated us from human connection. We simply do not have as much human interaction, and when we do, it is with masks covering our faces. A recent NPR report described the despair of young people and how the increased abuse of opium-based drugs, when combined with ample money from unemployment, has led to increased deaths due to drug overdose. One mother, whose son died of an overdose put it this way, “He was lonely. He was depressed. He didn’t have a reason any more to get up and keep going. And then, all this money flows in because of unemployment. So you’re isolated, you have lots of money, and your coping skill has always been drug use.” (1) Her son died in May, alone in his apartment, of drug overdose. This isolation of the pandemic is made worse is by winter. We are not seeing very much of the sun. So, the anxiety can grow in ever deepening proportions as the pandemic persists and as winter continues.

Finding Peace

What do we do about all of this? There are of course some really poor and sinful options. I probably don’t need to say much about those. From drug and alcohol use to self-injury to acts of violence to eating disorders to pornography and gambling and more, the options that the devil puts before us are wide in their variety but equal in their destructive power. There are also what we might term unwise decisions, which, if we think about them, are just as sinful, but they don’t feel that way. We could mention things like binge watching, video gaming, eating, and news following. All of these may be okay in moderation, but when they become excessive, they become sinful overindulgence that just as powerfully eats away at our souls. Then, there is the therapeutic solution, which at its best helps us understand ourselves in relation to God and others and at its worst is simply seeking for validation of self. Either way, this is an approach many are taking these days. 15 percent of Americans began taking medication for mental health issues for the first time in 2020. Another 15 percent changed or increased their prescription dosages during the pandemic. 88 percent experienced at least one symptom health professionals link to mental health trauma. Those include having “little interest or pleasure in doing things” (52%), “having trouble falling or staying asleep” (52%), and “feeling down, depressed or hopeless” (51%). (2)

So, we have to ask again, what do we do about all of this? May I suggest that we refocus our lives? Seek to be a worshiper, maturing in Christ. You will discover peace for your soul. Measure this by being rooted in scripture, growing in Christ, and making disciples of others. Engage in this by following a biblical pathway of worship in large groups, fellowship in medium sized groups, and close friendship in small groups. God did not design His pathway of discipleship for no good purpose. He intends it to bring peace to our souls in times of trouble.

Secondly, I’d like to encourage us in the scriptures. What do the scriptures say to us in the midst of all these anxiety producing factors in our world? Here is what the scriptures say:

Isaiah 41:10 Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

Isaiah 26:3 You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.

John 16:33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Isaiah 32:17 And the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever.

Romans 5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Romans 14:17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

Ephesians 2:14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility

Philippians 4:6-7 Do not be anxious about anything, 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 your minds in Christ Jesus.

Colossians 3:15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.

2 Thessalonians 3:16 Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all.

It is as we pray these scriptures and others like them that the Holy Spirit will bring peace and comfort to the soul of the believer in Jesus Christ. As I conclude this article, I’d like to share the lyrics to a song that Pastor Traig is in the process of writing. I felt that his words express well both the troubled moment we live in and the hope that the scriptures bring us for peace in our hearts. King Jesus is still upon His throne!

The future is fright’ning
The headlines are grim
The chaos is height’ning
The chances are slim
That peace will emerge
Or that justice will reign
How will God’s people live
And endure ‘neath the strain

Chorus
Stand strong in the Lord and in the power of His might
Fear not He will not leave you alone
Hold on to the Lord through the darkness of the night
King Jesus is still upon His throne
King Jesus is still upon His throne

A depth of depression
A cruel bitter pain
A harsh hopeless question
A world gone insane
When panic is real
And when anger enflamed
How will God’s people live
And endure ‘neath the strain

Chorus
Stand strong in the Lord and in the power of His might
Fear not He will not leave you alone
Hold on to the Lord through the darkness of the night
King Jesus is still upon His throne
King Jesus is still upon His throne

Bridge
Joyfully confident in Jesus
Prayerfully trust His sovereign plan
Faithfully loving foe and neighbor
Gratefully living in His hand

Chorus
Stand strong in the Lord and in the power of His might
Fear not He will not leave you alone
Hold on to the Lord through the darkness of the night
King Jesus is still upon His throne
King Jesus is still upon His throne

 

[1] https://www.npr.org/2021/01/26/960492035/deaths-of-despair-how-the-pandemic-may-be-fueling-lethal-drug-overdoses
[2] https://www.studyfinds.org/2020-so-bad-americans-entered-therapy-first-time/