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Coping with COVID-19 Anxiety, Stress, or Trauma?

I don’t know about you, but life for me right now is nothing short of crazy. From schools calling and closing; kids staying home; food and supplies to hunt for; relatives to check in on; COVID-19 impact meetings to attend; important meetings called off; Kansas City Trauma Healing Training postponed; Teen Trauma Healing rescheduled; Trauma Healing Circles suspended; to one client after another cancelling…yes, life is absolutely crazy! Then there are the never-ending questions. Will I be able to make a living during the shutdown? Will Quest make it through this crisis? What’s going on at the White House? Are we over-reacting or under-reacting?

COVID-19 is an invisible enemy out to take lives - as a roaring lion, roaming throughout the earth, seeking whom he may devour. According to the Trauma Healing Institute (THI), “Our hearts can be wounded when we are overwhelmed with intense fear, helplessness, or horror in the face of death.” Many people whose hearts have been wounded are not physically, mentally or emotionally able to handle another traumatic event! Their minds were already racing from life situations or past trauma - and now there’s COVID-19 to worry about. How should we respond to all the chaos of this traumatic event?

As I was driving home listening to NPR, a commentator was encouraging listeners to follow the government mandates, stay home, watch Netflix and enjoy their families. Yet, for some people, home is not a safe place. And it is not enjoyable because of all the chaos there. Staying home means that they will not be able to eat or have internet access to do homework. Many individuals lack the ability to calm themselves in order to rest, which can result in a high state of hyperarousal and overthinking. The fear of COVID-19 can rob them of peace and leave them at the foot of death - without them contracting the virus. Once again, how should we respond to all the chaos?

In my time with the Lord today, He gave me guidance from 1 Kings 17: 1-14. I pray it will encourage and equip you, as well.

1 Kings 17: 1, “Now Elijah, who was from Tishbe in Gilead, told King Ahab, “As surely as the Lord, the God of Israel, lives—the God I serve—there will be no dew or rain during the next few years until I give the word!”

1: God reigns and rules in the good and bad; and over the just and the unjust. God is in control. God spoke directly to Elijah and gave him direction in verses 1, 2, and 9. He told Elijah to go to brook and stay there for a while. Then sent him to a widow. God is speaking. We need to listen.

2: God will provide for and guide us through the calamity. After the brook dried up, He told Elijah to go to another town where a widow would feed him. Then the Lord said to Elijah in verse 9, “Go and live in the village of Zarephath, near the city of Sidon. I have instructed a widow there to feed you.”

3. Listen for God’s instruction and obey. God spoke to the widow, also. During those deeply distressing times, it would have been easy for her to engage in escapism to distract from impending doom and gloom. The fact that she heard the LORD’s instructions, shows she was alert. And when the prophet arrived, she was already gathering sticks and preparing to cook the meal, as God had called her to do (even before Elijah asked her for bread). This speaks to her attentiveness and obedience. Let us follow the widow’s example. Now, is not a time to just escape into Netflix and withdrawn behaviors. It is a time to be alert, listening, praying, and actively involved spending time with God and doing what He’s called us to do.

17:10 So he went to Zarephath. As he arrived at the gates of the village, he saw a widow gathering sticks, and he asked her, “Would you please bring me a little water in a cup?” 11 As she was going to get it, he called to her, “Bring me a bite of bread, too.”

4. Even in the face of scarcity, fear, and death, we need to serve others and trust God to provide. We need to allow God to move us from death to life. This widow was preparing to die even though God was speaking and moving on her behalf. Even in “death mindset”, God was using her. He had moved her from death to living again. Even though the widow didn’t have very much flour left, she trusted God and the man of God enough to cook the little left and serve Elijah. She carried out God’s instructions in the face of a scarcity and death mindset. We can’t hear and serve others in our own strength. God is our life-giver and sustainer. Let’s draw from him. It is in His presence that God gives us strength to do for others.

17:12 But she said, “I swear by the Lord your God that I don’t have a single piece of bread in the house. And I have only a handful of flour left in the jar and a little cooking oil in the bottom of the jug. I was just gathering a few sticks to cook this last meal, and then my son and I will die.”

5. Don’t be afraid to go ahead and serve others.

Can you hear this word being spoken to your heart? Usually, things don’t get to me and I am not easily afraid. I must admit that all the news coverage of the COVID-19 attack, along with the busyness of life, I find myself a bit anxious. I am hearing Him say clearly, “Don’t be afraid. Get up and serve others through My power - not your own.”

13 But Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid! Go ahead and do just what you’ve said but make a little bread for me first. Then use what’s left to prepare a meal for yourself and your son. 14 For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: There will always be flour and olive oil left in your containers until the time when the Lord sends rain and the crops grow again!”

17:15 So she did as Elijah said, and she and Elijah and her family continued to eat for many days. 16 There was always enough flour and olive oil left in the containers, just as the Lord had promised through Elijah.

6. If you are serving someone with high anxiety, refer to page 68 in your Starter Facilitators Handbook. Walk them through the breathing and container exercises. Use the three questions:

· What is happening?

· How do you feel?

· What is the hardest part?

Help them to sort out the chaos by having them list all the things that are going on. Don’t let them overwhelm you. It is better to have them write it out and call you back. Most people need someone to talk to and help them to sort out the next steps. If you need help supporting someone, call me at the Quest number 856-886-8788.

7. And finally, we need to follow the CDC guidelines and government mandates, relax and enjoy our families, too.

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