I had a bad mental health week. I was blessed to have friends who walked with me through it. They uplifted me through phone calls and text messages and told me in loving ways that I needed to get over myself. Last night I came out of the fog and thought I was going to be okay. I thought I would make until church on Sunday where I would be surrounded by my church family for corporate worship. The atmosphere of love, the focus on God, and the joy of serving would help me press onward. Hopping from Sunday to Wednesday to Sunday again and making connections through the week if needed was going to be my anchor until I could regain the strength to stand more securely on my own. “Take that devil,” I thought, “I have support and love and I am going to be okay”. Then, like many today, I received a flood of notifications. Events were canceled left and right, among which was church.
This isn’t the first time depression has caused me to live from church gathering to church gathering, relying on a fellowship of believers as my safe haven in the midst of a mental storm. The accountability of people who love me questioning excessive weight loss or seeing the tiredness in my eyes, while met with resistance has always been life-giving. It reminded me in a way I couldn’t deny that I was seen and cared for despite my fears to the contrary.
There is a big “what now” that hangs over my head. Honestly, it is suspended above many who already battle loneliness and depression. It affects those whom God has created to thrive in social environments. Whether we agree or disagree with the response to this virus, we are all feeling it’s consequences in some way. What now?
There is no replacing the local church. When functioning correctly, it is a crucial part of spiritual growth as well as emotional and mental health. However, God is our refuge and our safe place. Psalm 46:1 says, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” In Him and Him alone we can be secure. In a culture where social connections can be seen as an indicator of our worth, this is a good time to indulge in quality quiet time with God. For many of us, the pressure to rush around has ceased and the door is wide open to be still and sit in the presence of our Savior.
“Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.” Hebrews 4:11 ESV
The opportunity to connect with God and His Word is an open invitation. Just like He did for Joseph in Genesis 50:20, God will turn what the enemy means for evil and use it for our good. He is faithful and in Acts 10:34-35 Peter says, “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation, anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.” This goes for every age, every race, those who lived in the 1st century, and we who live now. We can trust in that His promise. Satan might try to use this time to tell us we are alone, isolated, forgotten, disconnected, unable to reach out, blocked from fellowship, and that God is inaccessible. God can turn that around to bring a greater connection to His heart and His Word.
It’s also important to know you aren’t alone. My initial reaction to all these cancellations was to feel walls close in around me. That fear blinded me to the fact that while my church family won’t be gathered together, they are all still within reach. In fact, with their schedules clear they might be more accessible! For those who are healthy, this might mean we’re able to take time fellowship one-on-one in ways our packed schedules haven’t previously allowed. For those with health concerns phone calls, Marco Polos, video prayer groups, and many other ways of connecting are still available to us. We are not alone. First and foremost we have God, but we also still have each other. If you need accountability and community, I encourage you to see the strength God has put inside you to reach out and make it happen. For those of us who know this time creates an additional struggle for our friends and loved ones, it is a great opportunity to show the far-reaching love of God.
“Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 5:3-5 ESV