by Jim Killam | 8-min read
Dick Burkett is president of a prayer and counseling ministry called Restoration Ministries of Rockford. Dick and his wife, Ellen, are part of our church family at First Free Rockford. We spoke with Dick about spiritual and emotional health during the coronavirus pandemic.
What are you noticing among people you counsel?
I’m seeing a lot of people trying to cope with stresses and fears of the unknown. A lot of uncertainty. There are things that we don’t know and there are things that we do know. We need to realize the difference. We don’t know what tomorrow is going to look like. We don’t know what our 401K is going to look like. We don’t know if we have the virus, or how long this will last.
How should we be consuming media now?
This is advice from Focus on the Family. Stay informed, but don’t obsessively check the news. When you do that, you will get into things that only feed your fears. It’s important to be discerning of what you read and watch. Stick to trustworthy sources.
One person told me most TV news comes on at 6 o’clock. So he takes about a half-hour or an hour and learns a lot. And that has helped him quite a bit.
If you are overwhelmed, and a lot of people are, this sounds simplistic but stay away from media. If anxiety is an ongoing issue, consider limiting media and walk away from it.
A lot of people are sharing information, and they mean very well by that. But they need to verify that information first. The Snopes coronavirus collection is a place you can sort through the misinformation.
What are some healthy ways people can deal with worry?
One person found that it’s helpful to write down specific worries, things that have been plaguing them all day long. Then, during a prayer time, a quiet time, give these anxieties over to God.
There’s a little acronym I use, whether it’s for helping people with alcohol or drug abuse, or pornography, or just general fears. It’s T&T. The First T stands for “Take every thought captive” (2 Cor. 10:5). Don’t sit around and dwell on it. For example, if an alcoholic keeps saying to himself, “I’m not going to take another drink, I’m not going to take another drink,” that may bring him to take another drink.
The Second T is, “Think about those things which are true and pure and noble and praiseworthy.” (from Phil. 4:8) I find that helpful in my own life. That’s when you sort through, from a Christian point of view, that God is in charge.
What other Scriptures you would point us to?
Exodus 14:14 says, “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” We can’t do that if we have an errant view of God, and whether he is trustworthy or not. So in times like this, when we have extra time on our hands, it’s a wonderful opportunity to get close to him.
Psalm 142:3a says, “When my spirit grows faint within me, it is you who watch over my way.” That’s very profound. Because what he didn’t say was “When my spirit goes faint within me, God told me exactly what to do and what tomorrow is going to look like.” David had a healthy view of God. We need to develop that healthy view of God, and having extra time to spend in Scriptures like those is very helpful.
How should parents be talking to their kids about all this?
Stay calm yourself. Your kids are looking to you as a model. So watch your emotions and be careful about talking about fearful events or what is going on in the news.
Provide reassurance. They are going to ask questions. You need to field their questions. (but make your responses age-appropriate). … Sometimes just reading Bible stories to them, or since they can’t go to Awana right now, working through their Awana verses, can help them in this time to develop a strong view of God. He is trustworthy and he will take us through this unknown.
Explain that you are trying to be cautious but you are not acting out of fear. … Maintain routines and schedules as much as possible. Change is hard. We can minimize that by making sure kids go to bed at the same time and wake up at the same time.
One person said, “I’m just going to have a lot of family fun with my kids. I’ve been way too busy with my work. Now that I can’t go to work, or now that I have extra time, I’m going to use that for family fun time.”
Focus on the Family offers lots of help in talking with your kids about coronavirus.
Many of us are dealing with isolation. Any advice?
There are a lot of great things happening that we aren’t all even aware of. People calling to ask each other how they’re doing. The fact that they care enough to take time to do that is very important. … Mostly it’s just taking time to listen to someone about their fears. Helping them work through these things really helps. With a phone call, you don’t have to solve it. Sometimes it’s just letting them talk it through.
Use this time to see what God has for you. One passage that I turn to a lot is 2 Chronicles 20. Most people know that passage for the phrase, “For this battle is not yours, but God’s” (20:15).
For those who are anxious about tomorrow, verse 12 is also helpful: “For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”
Worship and praise music is a great source to bring peace. I am older, so hymns help me a lot. Hymns like Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus and It Is Well with My Soul. Sometimes you can’t even focus on Scripture, so to have a song played over you is really good. My wife loves the Getty music. There’s so much music that they produce that has substance and scriptural help.
What if we are feeling afraid?
Colossians 3:1-2 says: “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”
Focus on fear is a signal to refocus my affections or my attention on things above rather than the things of earth. We can get so plugged into the needs of the day … We feed our fears by addressing all of those things. So generally speaking, I want to encourage Christians to go to the God who knows tomorrow. Scripture says he is the same yesterday, today and forever, and that is reassuring now.
We also need not feel guilty about fear or anxiety, even as Christians. Right?
Even though you have faith, it doesn’t mean you don’t feel those things sometimes. Don’t beat up on yourself for having these anxieties sometimes. In Philippians 4, Paul says “Do not be anxious about anything.” He was talking to people who were anxious.
Look at Scripture, and name me somebody who didn’t entertain fear. Besides Jesus. Look at Paul in 2 Corinthians 1, and the stress and suffering he was experiencing. Then he says: “But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.” If God can raise the dead, he can help us through this current crisis.
Is this encouragement we all need, no matter how mature we might be?
There are people I know who are strong believers who have been taken through storms. And sometimes I hesitate to share Scripture with them because I know they already know it. But as I share it slowly with them, they’ll say, ‘Thank you. I needed to remember that because my mind was racing on other issues.’
Anything else you’d like to add?
I don’t want this time to pass without learning something from God. These things are happening right now that we might not rely on ourselves. God is bringing us to our knees.
And then ultimately, we can use this to help our non-Christian friends to turn to God. He can use this to bring our loved ones to faith in Christ. That’s ultimately what I think God is doing here.