How do we keep our hearts encouraged during this pandemic? This pandemic has created a sense of loss of control and uncertainty throughout the world. While we are living in an uncertain time, we do not need to live in fear or in discouragement. We can encourage our hearts even as we grieve our losses and the life we had known.
Jesus was in fact very frank about the trials that his disciples would face. But He encouraged them (and us) with these words,
I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. John 16:33
I see four things that are certain in this passage.
First, peace is available in Jesus.
Second, in the world, we will have tribulation.
Third, we can take heart–we can be encouraged.
Fourth, Jesus has overcome the world.
Jesus’ exhortation to His disciples is to “Take heart!” “Be encouraged.”
How do we encourage our hearts during times of trials and hardships? It takes intentional work. I know, not necessarily what we want to hear because for some of us everything feels like extra work. But, this work of encouraging our hearts impacts other areass of our lives, so it is worth investing.
While tribulations can easily lead to discouragement, hopelessness, and fear, it also offers opportunities to experience deep encouragement and new ways of tackling hardships.
I have been developing a repertoire of spiritual, mental, and physical disciplines to keep my heart from discouragement without suppressing my emotions, or being tone-deaf to other people’s sufferings. You will want to develop your own, and I hope these might help you.
My Repertoire for Encouraging My Heart in Tribulation:
Listen to the Book of Psalms. Feeling multiple emotions at the same time? Are you having a difficult time finding words to express what’s in your heart in prayer? Wondering if you can pray the kinds of prayers you really want to pray?
I audio listen to the Book of Psalms when I am too distraught to pray on my own.
Yep. Each time I do this, I leave feeling encouraged in my heart. Why? The Book of Psalms is full of real-life situations, heart-wrenching cries, “What in the world” “I’m so mad God” “Why is…” “This situation is maddening…” kind of prayers that make my prayers real and authentic. I find myself echoing, “Yes…. Please, Lord….Help…I praise you…Thank you” as I hear the Word of God being read aloud. One time, I was so distraught and discouraged, I listened to 75 chapters of Psalms in one sitting until I felt like everything in my chest had come before God (including all my tears and snots). Try it. God can handle our deepest disappointments.
You can find all kinds of audio Bible readings–dramatized versions, different Bible versions, etc. I like and use the simple YouVersion Bible App.
Meditate and use the Lord’s Prayer to guide prayer. Repeat the process throughout the day. The Lord’s Prayer has been guiding my prayers, especially during this pandemic. It guides my prayers for the leaders of our world, the nations, our immediate needs, others, and for my own heart so that I am forgiving and receiving forgiveness from God
Try spiritual direction. I have a spiritual director that I meet with once a month (now over the phone or Skype), and it has been so helpful in many ways. Different from counseling, spiritual direction offers a safe spiritual companion with whom I can share my inner wrestlings, insights, and workings of the Holy Spirit. Spiritual direction has allowed me to be more aware of what God is doing in my heart during and through times of tribulation.
Go outside and observe nature and people. There is something about being outdoors and being in nature that brings perspective. I see birds, trees, wildflowers, and streams of water, and I am reminded that God takes care of all these things. Somehow their existance brings deeper meaning for our existance.
I see cars buzzing by, and people walking, and I am reminded that others are facing and experiencing tribulations. It takes my focus off of my tribulation, and I am reminded that tribulation is common to all.
With shelter in place ordinance, it might be hard to go to places, but even just sitting outside in your patio while the sun is out and being mindful of signs of life around you can be very healing.
Stay connected to people who can be present and authentic. I think we know why.
Exercise regularly. For me, I am sitting all the time reading, writing, etc. So, I have been doing yoga regularly to get mid-day stretch in. It has been so good! I’ve loved doing 30 days of Yoga with Adriene.
Do something you enjoy, and as you are doing it, let gratitude accompany you. I have heard people say practice gratitude daily, but I find it difficult to practice it in a vacuum. So if snuggling your child makes you happy, snuggle and say a word of gratitude. If baking, say out loud what you’re thankful for as you knead. If there is a picture that brings back happy memories, or a scent that brings you back to that place of joy, let them propel you to a place of gratitude. Gratitude helps us touch hope.
God has created us to be overcomers. Without denying what it is and all the loss, pain, hardships, and suffering that we face, I encourage my heart by reminding myself that God has created us with the capacity to be resilient. One day, my tribulation will become my victory, and it will be used to encourage others who are in similar trials of life. The same Easter victory we celebrated on Easter Sunday is available today.
I will overcome with His help.
Get a good night’s sleep and keep a routine. Sleep is so important to our wellbeing. I have heard that for many, sleep is one of the first things to go during times of stress. But, we need it the most. Keep a regular bedtime routine by reminding yourself that today’s problem is sufficient for today, and entrust God with tomorrow. You might want to fall asleep listening to worship music or to the Bible.
Feed your soul from the Word of God daily. While we can get encouragement from other sources, such as John Krasinski‘s show SGN (I love it and I laugh and cry at the same time!), we need the Word of God to sustain us for the longhaul. We need God, His perspective, His warnings, and His encouragement daily. If you don’t like to sit and read, audio listen to the Bible.
Adjust your expectations. The times I have found myself most discouraged were when I expected something to go one way, but the reality was contrary to my expectations. Without being jaded about the world or cynical about people, we can adjust our expectations so that we can create more space for flexibility, acceptance, and peace in our lives.
We are in it together.
Let’s keep our hearts encouraged through this pandemic.