In many ways, I believe that the Covid-19 pandemic has been harder in America than most other countries. The reason for this is because of our freedoms. We are not used to the government saying you must do this, or you can’t do that. Never in the history of any of our lives have we seen jobs cease, events canceled, restaurants and shops closed, and churches not allowed to open their doors. This position of the government to decide who is essential and who isn’t is foreign to us. While it may be common in other countries, it is not in the land of the free and the home of the brave.
The effects of this pandemic are both far-reaching and astonishing. Take its impact on business. Newsweek reports a staggering 72,000 businesses have been permanently shut down from Covid-19, and economists are expecting that number to balloon to over a million. Some economists are expecting the number to be in the 5-7.5 million range. Covid-19 has had a negative impact on both small and large, and new and long-established businesses where we all shop. A few of the names that have filed for bankruptcy since March include Briggs & Stratton, Borden Dairy, Brooks Brothers, Chuck E Cheese, Gold’s Gym, Hertz, JC Penney, J.Crew, Krystal, Libbey, Lord & Taylor, Neiman Marcus, Pier 1, Remington Outdoor Company, Stage Stores, Tuesday Morning, just to name a few. In the months ahead, we will see many other names added to this list.
The pandemic has also decimated government revenue. Budgets at the local, state, and federal levels are formulated on the prior year’s receipts. When workers are unemployed, and stores are closed, there are little receipts coming in. Local and state government officials are trying to find new ways to increase revenues from businesses that are either closed or struggling, and people who are unemployed. Through both the federal government and federal reserve, we will be adding to debt, just from the pandemic, close to 10 trillion dollars. To put that number in perspective, in just the past few months, our debt cost from the pandemic alone is about $90,000 per taxpayer in America.
As bad as the pandemic is on business and government, we may find that the most significant cost of the pandemic is a psychological one. When we look at things we can’t control, many times, we can be drawn to the negative. During this time, suicide hotlines and counselors are seeing what is described as the first wave of emotional distress, as callers are flooding their offices to deal with issues such as fear, unemployment, relationships, anger, guilt, and isolation. Anytime there are large-scale traumatic events, such as 9/11 or a mass shooting, there are almost always long-term psychological consequences. Many times, there is an increase in depression, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), substance abuse, and a broad range of other mental and behavioral disorders. It is also common to see a notable increase in domestic violence and child abuse. On the other hand, non-violent crime is down overall during this time. Researchers believe the reason for this is because of the stay-at-home lockdown itself, as well as the money that has been injected into the system through stimulus checks and federal unemployment benefits. It should be noted, however, that violent crime has risen during this same time in some areas of the country by more than 60%.
Please understand that Christians are not immune to this type of mental and emotional distress. It is imperative that we take constructive steps that can help to counteract a downward spiral. I believe there are several things that a believer in Christ can do that will help us have a paradigm shift.
First, we can pray the Prayer of Serenity
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.
There are some things we cannot change, so let’s leave those things in the hands of God, and focus on what I can do.
Acknowledge that God is in control of your life. Not the pandemic. Not the government. Not the circumstances. The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and He delights in his way. Psalm 37:23 NKJV
Continue your daily disciplines. Read the Bible and have a time of prayer every day. This is not about a ritual, but rather about a relationship.
Place a favorite scripture in a highly seen area (at my house, it’s the refrigerator). This helps remind us of His promises. Remember, what gets fed, grows.
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear. Psalm 46:1-2
For we live by faith, not by sight. 2 Corinthians 5
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27
Limit your news and media exposure. Some psychologists say that during times of crisis on a national level, there are two main predictors of how someone will do during the emergency: First, is their condition going into it, and second, how much news they consumed during the crisis. Prolonged and persistent news exposure may create vicarious trauma and PTSD. In studies that were conducted after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, many people who experienced large amounts of media exposure were still having metal/emotional/physical health issues two-three years later. To be transparent, when this pandemic first started, I was watching two or three hours of news per day. I was captivated by it. But finally, I figured out that all it was doing was making me anxious, fearful, and confused, which are all against what God wants for His children (John14:27, 2 Timothy 1:7, 1 Corinthians 14:33). So now I limit myself to no more than 30 minutes of news per day. I have concluded that I don’t know what is right, I question if they know what is right, so I will just leave it in the hands of the One who I know does know what is right.
Limit social media and exposure. Have you ever thought you would get on Facebook for a minute and then find out you have been on there for an hour? Set an alarm for 15 minutes and then close it out. Stop reading on the conspiracy theories and focus on the facts. There are misinformation forces on the right and the left. Do not buy into them. I will not watch ANY PM video that someone sends me through Facebook Messenger.
Limit toxic people. We should do this every day, but especially during high-stress times. Behaviors such as gossip, chronic lying, being demanding, being self-centered on their needs vs. yours, are quite harmful and take a toll on your well-being. While you may be able to endure some toxicity with friends and family during non-pandemic times, removing toxic energy is vital during times of high stress.
Take care of yourself. Eat right, exercise and get a good night’s sleep.
Meditate on God’s Word. During times of anxiety, it is vital that we feed ourselves the Word of God (Joshua 1:8, Psalm 1:2, Philippians 4:8). God has told us to meditate on His Word throughout scripture, and doctors say that the benefits of meditation include anxiety reduction, reduced stress, increased attention span, decreased depression, and improved emotional health and well-being. So, take ten minutes and dwell on one of His promises today.
Do something you have always wanted to do. Maybe it is to learn a new language, learn new skills in computing, or canning, or playing an instrument. This list could go on forever, and most of this you can learn for free on the internet. (yes, you can do things on the internet besides social media.)
This is VERY important. Most of the time, when people are dealing with emotional and emotional distress, they are very inward-focused. But for the Christians, ours is a life about others (Matthew 20:28). One of the greatest things that I can do for myself is to do for others. To look outside myself. Everyone reading this can, and should, be touching the lives of others, maybe by helping them with groceries, sending them a card, or making a call. Get out of yourself and help others. Look around you; there are so many opportunities to minister to others who are in need.