Have you ever taken one of those questionnaires that ends with, “If you answered yes to two or more of the questions, then you have a certain ailment.” As I have talked to many people over the past several weeks, there are some common themes that emerge that could be on a pandemic questionnaire:
1. Are you lonely and do you fear being isolated from others?
2. Do you fear separation from family and friends, and how our children will be affected?
3. Do you face financial and job uncertainty?
4. Are you afraid of contracting the virus and getting sick and possibly dying?
5. Are you feeling generally unsettled and worried because no one knows how severe things will become nor how long it will last?
6. Are you worried that when you get to the store, the shelves will be empty?
To focus on these things is quite normal and not a disease. You have in your nervous system an entire fear network which can be activated almost instantaneously by things that are dangerous or potentially dangerous. It’s part of our survival mechanism. One of the things we have learned from experimental psychology is that fear is normal and automatic; calmness has to be learned.
One of the things that can help instill calmness is integrity. Now, you might be thinking of integrity as a word that means honor and high moral standards, which it does. But there is a second meaning of the word that has to do with strength. For instance, think about the integrity of a ship. All modern ships are tested for the integrity of their hulls. I did a little studying on this subject to find that all vessels, and particularly undersea vessels, go through extensive testing for integrity. Each weld, each bolt, each fitting must be strong and in place or else the vessel could spring a leak and sink. The integrity of a vessel is not tested by the “least” amount of stress, but rather the “most” amount—an amount greater than what it would endure during normal operation. This ensures that under any circumstance, the hull will not crack. This is the integrity of the hull.
This metaphor illustrates the need for integrity in our lives during this time of physical and social upheaval. There are times in our lives when we are tested to the core, and any weaknesses will be quickly exposed by some sort of leak. I spoke with a woman a couple of weeks ago who had been tested like this. She and her husband were going into retirement. They had built a beautiful retirement home in the mountains and worked on its construction for over a year. The week before moving into their dream home, her husband had a fall down a stairway and died. The woman’s spiritual and emotional foundation was cracked wide open as if hit by an earthquake. She was drowning and could barely reach out for help.
This current pandemic is shaking the foundations of normalcy in our lives. How is your strength holding up, your integrity?
The disciples, and home isolation
One of the last teachings and predictions before Jesus was crucified was that they would be persecuted, scattered and retreat to their homes alone (John 16.31). The integrity of their faith would be tested. And then Jesus proclaimed, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Another translation is, “Be courageous.” We are further instructed by Paul, in Romans 5, that we should see something positive in our fear and suffering, because when we endure suffering, we become stronger (perseverance). And when we become stronger people, we become better people (character). And when we become strong and good, we have hope. Hope is the opposite of fear.
We are repeatedly taught in Scripture that in this fallen world, we will have various trials and temptations. James, the brother of Jesus, instructs us that our faith may be tested when we face great challenges that are out of our control. “You know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete” (James 1:3-4).
If you are noticing some leaks or creaks in your hull, here are a few ideas that could help you become more mature and complete:
1. Stand firm in your faith in the one who has overcome the world. You can do this by reading and meditating on God’s Word. Rather than thoughts of worry, we can flood our minds with God, who is our rock, our shield, our fortress, our refuge. Go to the Psalms.
2. Pray that God will provide you with what he has promised: his peace through the Holy Spirit. Pray for the Church and our pastors. Pray for the recovery of those infected. Pray for the vulnerable and those in need. Pray for our government leaders, that they would be making the very best decisions for the country. Pray for The Salvation Army’s leaders who are making critical decisions every day.
3. Partner with other believers. Social distancing is not the same as social isolation, and this is not a time to be isolated. Find like-minded believers you can share with on a regular basis. You can feel like you’re going through this with brothers and sisters and friends, and that’s a very strong seam in your hull.
4. Take advantage of the opportunities you might not normally have. Do things you normally do not have time for. Play a game with your kids. Cook a special meal. Read the book that’s been on your shelf forever. Take some hikes and enjoy God’s nature. Clean a part of your house that has been neglected. You can add your list here.
5. Be an example of integrity. Be that calm and courageous and strong person that others are encouraged by. This is to develop a sense of responsibility that your actions, moods and attitudes affect others. Influence others in the best way possible.
6. Develop hope on a day-to-day basis. “Give us this day our daily bread,” as the prayer goes. This might mean limiting your time consuming the news or any dire predictions, all of which are unknown at this time and some of which are written to intentionally frighten you. You have this day to contend with, like a one-day compartment on your ship. So be your very best person in all you do and say, this day.
Do these things daily and you will build ship-like integrity in your life.
- Decide on one of the ideas here to become more mature and complete. Share what you’re going to do and tag Caring Magazine in your post so we can cheer you on.
- Draw or find a photo of a boat or ship. Write “integrity” on the image and put it in a visible spot, like your bathroom mirror or at your desk. Be reminded each time you see it to build this ship-like integrity in your life, wherein you might be tested but will remain strong and calm.
- See how you can get involved in the Fight for Good at westernusa.salvationarmy.org.
- Hear this: Your story is uniquely yours. It’s the one thing you have that no one else does. And you’re the one who can tell it best. Take our free email course on how to find your voice, own your story and share it with others.