In the Potter’s Inn podcast on “Stress and the Soul,” Steve Smith reminds us that stress is not new to God’s people. In the Old Testament, particularly in Psalms, we often hear of “distress,” “trouble,” and “disaster.” Famine, plague, battles, struggles, abuse, persecution, and even pandemic are part of life in this broken world.
What makes us in the Church different from non-believers in how we respond to stress and distress? Our normal human responses are anxiety and fear. Even Jesus felt distress and dread when facing great trouble. But he showed us how to respond to these very normal thoughts, emotions, and body responses—by choosing to trust God.
Trust is not a feeling. Trusting does not necessarily involve peace or calm. Jesus never stopped trusting His Father in the Garden of Gethsemane, yet he was not feeling calm when sweating blood. Trust is a choice. In anxious days like these, trust is a spiritual discipline.
Steve Smith encourages us to develop the daily disciplines of T-R-U-S-T prayerfully in our own way. The following disciplines are the ways I turn daily toward trust:
“T” is for “Thanksgiving.” I choose to give thanks daily for God’s gifts, which continue even today and tomorrow. In studies of Holocaust survivors, the most reliable indicator of survival was an ongoing “attitude of gratitude” despite hardship. Start a gratitude journal, and write at least one entry a day. In all things, give thanks (1 Thess 5:18).
“R” is for “Resting” in the promises of God. I have uploaded to eyesarentenough.com a partial list of the promises Christ fulfilled. Remember these promises. Rest in these promises. Choose a promise each week for which you feel a particular need and allow God to “speak” those words of truth to your mind and heart repetitively. Read the words out loud. Post them throughout your dwelling. Say the words first thing and last thing each day.
“U” is for “Understanding.” I cannot understand much in the midst of this pandemic, but I can understand God enough to know that He is “working all things together for good for those who love Him” (Rom 8:28). As Prov 3:5 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” Instead, as Prov 3:6 instructs, we are to submit to (turn to, seek, acknowledge, remember) God. Pray that we all (believers and unbelievers alike) would “awaken” in new ways to God and to understand spiritual realities that are so often hidden when we feel safe, comfortable, complacent, and in control of our lives.
“S” is for “Serve.” This is the time for Christ-followers to serve others. Christ gave Himself up for us, and we in turn are to give ourselves to others, to proclaim the gospel by words and actions. But Jesus also tells us to be “wise,” so we need to serve wisely, with care. The young can carefully fetch groceries or medications for the elderly. And even the elderly can serve others from home through prayers, phone calls and emails. A very good “general” list to pray is available at this link—“Twenty Prayers to Pray During This Pandemic.” Make your own specific prayer list. Pray at the same time daily. Call those who may be isolated and lonely. Listen to them. Encourage them. Read Scripture to them.
“T” is for “Turn OFF.” We need to saturate our minds and spirits not with secular input but with spiritual truth (worship music, Scripture, Christian podcasts, sermons and webinars, encouragement, prayer, and silent attentiveness to our loving God). We can intake the news in adequate quantities to be wise without letting this be our predominant mental input each day. Instead, embrace the spiritual discipline of turning off or away from social media and news reports for the majority of each day.
For example, I have set a personal two-hour daily maximum for national, world, and medical articles on the pandemic. We falsely think we gain control (and understanding) by “keeping up with the news,” whether by TV, internet, conversations or social media. Instead, put into practice Philippians 4:8: And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.
God is completely good, loving, and trustworthy. God is all-powerful. God is not surprised by our circumstances or our responses. Our Good Shepherd sees us. He knows us. We are the beloved of God. Jesus has chosen to join us in our suffering. Join me in choosing to TRUST Him.