We have more than the pandemic to be anxious about today, with protests and riots going on. Anyone listening to, or reading, or watching the news has plenty to be distressed about.
There are three stress responses, flight, fight, and freeze. Freezing is reflexive, a kind of temporary paralysis. When it comes to flight or fight, we choose one or the other. We have to be in a healthy place where we can think rationally about our response.
I used to have a dream of being chased by a bear. Suddenly I would turn around and face the bear. The bear stopped running and eventually slinked away from me. This has always been a sign to me. If you can’t outrun your enemy, face him.
- The first thing I do to relieve stress is to get a comprehensive understanding of what is happening. Knowledge tends to be equipping. I listen to a lot of sources to determine what is going on.
- The very thing I do to alleviate stress, also causes stress and I need to know when to take a break to calm myself, so it follows that I need to know what calms me. What are calming activities for me that I can do safely? Over-eating or consuming anything that alters my mental state is not what I recommend. This is a time, when, more than ever, we need to have optimum health and be mentally alert. How well we cope depends a lot on whether we can calm ourselves.
I once heard advice in a parenting seminar by Al Friesen who explained that we all have an angry “bear” inside us that rises up from time to time and wants to dominate. It is up to us to keep our “bear” in its cage. If we let him loose to do as he pleases, he can do a lot of damage.
I think it was wise to draw attention to the fact that we struggle with destructive emotions and that there is actually another part of us that can exercise control over these emotions. We are not helpless.
- Next I ask, What can I do to change the situation? The first answer is always, pray. Many times this will calm me. I have seen remarkable answers to prayer. Even if I had not, prayer is a way of aligning with God’s purposes. If I don’t know what to pray, I simply say, Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
- My secret weapon is reading the Bible. Does anyone ever ask why communist China is so intent on eradicating the Bible? The Bible is a source of strength. The image above is a carving of Jochebed, the mother of Moses. She dared defy the Egyptian edict that Israelite male babies be destroyed and as a result her son delivered a nation from slavery. The Bible is filled with admonitions not to be afraid. It reassures us that God, who created us, will also watch over us, protect us and bless us. There is a condition, however. We must seek truth and righteousness. The God of the Bible is the enemy of the wicked. We can take comfort in this.
The Bible also does another thing for me. It tells me it is no strange thing to be hated for choosing the good. There is no better example of this than the story of the crucifixion of Christ. People who do good can expect to face opposition. John the Baptist was beheaded because he told Herod that it was unlawful for him to take his brother’s wife.
- I also read stories of men and women who prevailed through incredible hardship and opposition. While some caved under pressure, others, in the same circumstances, prevailed. We can choose suicide. We can choose escape. We can choose a slow form of dying through addictive behaviors that ruin our health and erode our mental capacity. Or we can choose life. To choose life is difficult and requires courage. It is my firm belief that each person is born with a potential to make a difference. Each life has value. The enemy of our souls wants to steal from us our sense of worth and significance on this earth.
I can’t be sure I would choose life if I didn’t have faith in a living, active, caring God. We are in a battle with a real spiritual adversary that wants us to despair of life itself. We cannot afford to give in and allow him to silence us and make us ineffective and destroy us.
The “politically correct” and “cancel culture” people have been after me for generations, only I didn’t have a name for them back then. Two or three years ago I had an all out confrontation and I was in the grip of fear. I took a few steps back and evaluated how I was going to move forward. I knew I had to move forward, but I needed to take time and decide the best way for me to do this.
- Each of us must take a moment to assess the situation. This is what a first responder will do at the scene of an accident–assess who can be revived, what can be done to help those who can survive, and what should be done first.
- It takes faith to believe there is an appropriate action for you to take. Initially you may simply need to go up on a mountain by yourself, figuratively speaking, and clear your mind. You may need to get your own personal vision. It could take awhile, possibly years. At various points you will find yourself engaging, in big and small ways, in a battle for truth and life.
- Support your family. Support those nearest to you. Don’t neglect them. Make space for them. You are the only person in that unique relationship of brother, sister, mother, father, grandparent, son, or daughter. Or maybe it is a co-worker, boss or friend you need to support, as well. Imagine a world where everyone took care of their family. Make these close relationships as good as you possibly can.
These are things I prioritize. It is vital for us to learn how to remain calm and composed. We also need to know how to find our way back when we get off track. Remember, calm, rational heads will prevail.
- Know your adversary. Know what they stand for. Get a clear picture. Face the fact that we have a real enemy that seeks to destroy all that is good.
- Embrace faith. I cannot see a way to win this battle without help from above. We need a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of God, and to be able to comprehend the “exceeding greatness of HIS power toward us who believe.” (Read Ephesians 1)
We will find courage and strength if we are convinced that we have a purpose and a vital role here on earth. This requires clarity about our beliefs and priorities.
Do the difficult thing. Take action, small or great. Jordan Peterson, author of Twelve Rules for Life – An Antidote to Chaos, suggests we start by making our bed, daily.
Regroup after battle. Don’t beat yourself up if you fail to get it right the first round. Get up, shake off the dust, and start again. Another day means another opportunity.