Anchoring Our Souls in The StormBy Garrett Higbee
May 20, 2020
In the last few months our world has been turned upside down by the COVID-19 pandemic. It has been one of the most disruptive, and disturbing seasons I have seen in my lifetime. No matter what your opinion is on how it originated or how the government has handled it we can all agree it has impacted everyone. I think one of the best things I have read about its impact is “we may be in the same storm, but we are not all in the same boat.” Storms like this call for people to pull together, to show empathy, and to be slow to judge. Each person and every family have their own stories of loss, anxiousness, and moments of frustration. Some have taken heroic risks; others are uniquely at risk, and many are isolated and afraid. No matter the situation the power of God’s promises and the strength of His character is like an anchor that steadies all of us.
“So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.” (Heb 6:17-20)
It has been said there is no play book for this sort of thing. While it is a novel virus and, in some ways, seems unprecedented, I would argue that as Christians we actually have clear marching orders and a unique advantage in how to respond. I want to share five ways we can navigate this season to care for our own soul, to care for others well, and ultimately for God’s glory. Our dependence on God will help us to not only be overcomers in this “unprecedented” time but help others redeem it for good.
- Managing Our Focus (Ps 119:15; Prov 4:23; Isa 26:3)
- Mining God’s Character (Col 1:19-20; Heb 6:17-20)
- Meditating on God’s Promises (Ps 1:1-2; 119:148; 2 Peter 1:3-4)
- Monitoring Our Self-Talk (Ps 13, 42, 62; 130; Lam 3; Luke 12:19-21; Phil 4:8)
- Measuring Our Words (Ps 19:14; Prov 23:12; Matt 12:36-37; Acts 15:24)
Managing Our Focus
For those shepherding others we must first watching our own life and doctrine closely (1 Tim 4:16). Like grabbing the oxygen mask in a plane, we must abide in Christ and His word for our own soul care before we try to assist others. Our focus during crisis can be distracted by despair or distorted by fear. When God becomes the true object of our most reverent fear, our most resolute focus and our deepest affections all other things get right sized in our perspective. We all know that fixing our eyes upon Jesus is sound advice but even Peter couldn’t help but look at the waves when Jesus was right in front of him (Matt 14:28-33)! That should give us humility for those who are terrified and hope when we find our focus on the storm around us. Maybe we should add “social media distancing” to our repertoire of ways to mitigate risk. We are consumers of a massive amount of information in the day of the internet. We can’t expect to find peace in more information, a well-thought-out plan, or in just gutting-out the situation. Take advantage of this shelter at home order to spend time being still, beholding God, worshiping instead of worrying, and keeping your mind focused on Him (Isa 26:3).
Help other guard their health, but remind them that the Scriptures says, “guard the heart above all things” (Prov 4:23). What we listen to, what we see, what we allow to consume our thoughts must be of great concern. What if for every minute spent listening to the news media or searching the Internet, we spent ten minutes listening to praise and worship music, praying through Scripture, taking a walk and focus on God’s creation with thanksgiving. If there is anything I have learned from this strange sabbatical from the normal, it is that God is more interested us being transformed by beholding Him in the midst of the crisis than being informed by the shifting “wisdom” of the world (Rom 12:1-2).
Mining God’s Character
Knowing God makes all the difference as we tether our confidence to Him in uncertain times. He is the only sure thing in times of chaos. The character of God is an endless treasure. That is why I chose the word mining. Dig into who God is by studying His character. What does God say about himself in Scripture? He never changes. He is righteous, holy, just, merciful, sovereign, compassionate, loving, jealous, good, and that is just the gold sitting on the surface. He is not just a set of attributes but the perfect embodiment of all of them at once. He is the brilliant sun behind the storm clouds, He is constant when everything else is shifting wildly, that should give us a peace as we remember His steadfast covenant love.
Studying who God is will give us faith that gently points out that God’s character to others, hope that reminds a friend that suffering is temporary and has a purpose, and love that motivates kindness, compassionate prayers, and acts of service. Especially in light of the incarnation, God sending His son as both a perfect imprint of His character (Heb1:3) and sacrifice for our sins (Heb 10:12). He was then resurrected on the third day overcoming death so that those who repent and believe in Christ for the forgiveness of sin could have new life (2 Cor 5:17-21). Knowing this allows us to admit that we too must anchor ourselves to the gospel daily (Heb 2:1- 3; 6:19) before we can help others with their emotional and spiritual vertigo. So how do guard our hearts and stay anchored and witness to a shaken world? We remember and study God’s character. Start by picking an attribute that anchors you. Study that attribute and journal about how it settles your soul, then share with others.
Meditating on God’s Promises
God’s promises, while not affected by temporal circumstances, can be eclipsed by doubt or confusion when emotions are high. That’s why we need to meditate on His word not ruminate on the circumstances. Meditation is rehearsing something over and over in your mind. When it comes to meditating on God’s word, some have compared it to chewing gum until you get all the flavor out of it. Taking a promise like in Jeremiah 29:11 and mulling it over asking yourself why it is there, what it means for us today, and what you are going to do as a result? This brings the Scripture to life. Imagine the difference it would make if one replaced ruminating on fear or worry with meditating on God’s promises. That is not to say that we might not lament loss or hurt or admit to God our anxieties (1Peter 5:6-7), but that is different than complaining horizontally and is always right-sized in light of eternal promises.
Monitoring Our Self-talk
Our self-talk can be like a sound track stuck on repeat. It is the counsel we give ourselves. When the heat is turned up and circumstances have us reeling, we can be tempted to listen to lies, have an inner voice of negativity, and let our fear counsel us. That is not from the Lord (1 Tim 1:7). There is no one who counsels us as much as we counsel ourselves. That is why being immersed in the truth of God’s word is the most power way to battle the downward spiral of obsessing over our horizontal circumstances. Are you allowing a voice from your past or the fear of the future to create a faithless inner dialogue? This can create doubt, analysis paralysis, or even drive us to foolish words or actions.
Try to identify any lies or fear and counter them with specific truth from God’s word. Memorize verses that you can use to battle lies and plausible arguments against God’s goodness that might come up when times are confusing. Ask God to speak through His word and hide that word in your heart (Ps 119:11). Read through the Psalms if you are struggling and consider writing your own lament to guard against grumbling or complaining. Preach the gospel to yourself daily and then go share it with someone (I’ll bet your voice can be heard from six feet away).
Measuring Words Carefully
The Bible is quick to warn that our words really do matter. They can be life-giving and calming or bring death and destruction. The tongue can be a careless arsonist or can bring sweet life-giving grace (James 3: 6; Prov 27:9). Words are important but It is not just what we say, or what we post on social media, but what we listen to that matters. If the majority of the world is counseled by their fear and not truth, why would we expect wisdom or reasonableness to be the order of the day? Why would we expect objective truth in an age where partisan agendas and relativism is rampant? That is where we as Christians must consider the season and be careful not to presume, predict, or use platitudes (Prov 15:23). We must not give into fearful speculation or share our opinion as if we know what is best.
Humility, grace, and unwavering faith are called for in this time in both words and actions. Ask yourself, is what I am listening true? Here is what we know: God is in control, this too shall pass. In this crisis connect to the pain and confusion but then take them to the cross. Yes, there is unprecedented chaos but also unprecedented opportunity to share Christ, our soul anchor, as people look for hope.
Questions for reflection:
- Assess your soul’s posture in the midst of this crisis, are you anchored in Christ?
- How do we help others manage their focus without seeming uncaring?
- What needs to change in your focus for to be part of God’s redemptive plan?