5 Steps to a Light Heart in a Season Heavy with Coronavirus Concerns

The Coronavirus Concerns are Valid

This week I have been irritable.

At my husband, at my son when he constantly asks me for snacks, at myself because I knocked a whole roll of toilet paper into my washer without noticing AND WASHED IT in the middle of a toilet paper crisis. At my sweater because I couldn’t get it onto the clothes hanger the first try.

That was the indicator that let me know this wasn’t really about my husband or my son or the TP or my sweater. The small situations were not causing me to be bothered, they were revealing that I am bothered by something deeper.

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My heart has been heavy over all the unknowns and precautions and trying to walk the fine line between wisdom and paranoia. The scientific community is making progress on treatment possibilities, but they’re still in the clinical trials stage. Models suggest that the measures we have taken will help keep healthcare resources available to the severely ill, but that this scenario our world is in will not resolve quickly.

Meanwhile, I’m concerned about our investments, unsure about our income and our economy, aware of the threat that looms over the vulnerable people I love. I’m wrestling with how powerless I am to protect them. I’m angsty over how long I may have to go without social interaction. I’m unnerved by the opinions and interactions on social media that are growing sharper as the disease spreads and the stress sets in. I feel all my plans growing less and less likely in the coming months.

As painful scenarios leave the hypothetical and start to rip their way into our reality, it’s more challenging to dismiss my concerns. The coronavirus concerns are valid.

And they are heavy.

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Is it as simple as “Just don’t worry about it?”

I have been sitting with this verse.

“Give your burdens to the Lord,
    and he will take care of you.
    He will not permit the godly to slip and fall.”

Psalm 55:22

I love that I am not asked to wildly abandon my concerns as if they’re just in my head. It’s one thing to hear “just don’t worry about it” when I’m fretting over unlikely possibilities and I actually do need to lighten up. But when I’m bearing heavy situations and high risks and a great deal of loss is at stake, it’s not that simple.

If I am to shift the weight off my shoulders, I must know these things have been delegated carefully into the hands of one who is equally invested in their importance and is competent to manage them.

I think that’s why this verse connects with me so well. It’s not an over-arching, “just stop being so concerned” message. It’s a personal and specific invitation to name those things that burden my heart and give them directly to the One who promises to take care of me.

When my troubles have shifted onto the plate of someone in whom I have great confidence, they can remain unsolved and yet my heart can be light. It’s a matter of who I think is called to handle the situation.

One Finger At A Time

I am a worrier and an overthinker and a plan-ahead-er, so one truth that has made a huge practical difference in my life is this: Be anxious for nothing” is not a matter of personality, it’s a matter of obedience.

With the ever-evolving concerns we are facing, I have been trying to wrap my mind around the how of obeying that command.

I know when something has stolen my focus and has my mind over-analyzing and my heart burdened. I know in that same moment that I should not be focusing, over-analyzing, or holding onto that burden. I struggle with how to let go.

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How do I get from Point A: anxious, to Point B: not anxious?

How do I loosen my white-knuckle grip on the things that I cannot stop caring deeply about? In the midst of a hard situation I’m likely to be in for a while, what are the day-to-day steps to a light heart?

First, I think I have to recognized that by letting go of them, I am giving them to someone who is able to do a better job managing the situation than I can.

Second, because the worries will keep re-surfacing in my mind, I must capture those thoughts and link them to heart-steadying truth. That way, the next time they show up, they actually serve me. I want practical replacement thoughts – mental resets that guide my mind back to solid reassurance, so that as these concerns arise, while I do whatever it is I need to do, I also settle back into how I am well taken care of. I take the threat seriously, but I live with a light heart.

Finally, I think it’s easiest to let go one finger at a time.

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So, in a season heavy with coronavirus concerns, I identified 5 areas where I felt irritation, worry, frustration and fear surfacing in my heart and my thinking.

This is my tool so that each time I feel myself growing tense, restless, and heavy as I walk through the weeks ahead, I can glance at my hand with its 5 fingers, or at this handy, short-and-sweet printable on my fridge and count down 5 steadying steps that help me let go of one specific area at a time.

Five Steps to a Light Heart

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When I feel concerned over how this situation will affect my:

I will offer sacrificial love freely and lay down my expectations.

Any time stress is heightened, we feel that tension in our relationships. Because it’s easy for me to obsess over rough interactions with other people and stress over whether we are okay or not, I want to be careful about how much time and attention those relationship dynamics get in my heart. I think the truth I can sit with is this: when people are not fine, their interactions suffer, and a lot of people are not fine right now. I can’t necessarily count on the reassurance, attention and company I want from other people. But I can shift my thinking from what I can GET to what I can GIVE. I can release people to just be where they’re at and keep offering them grace rather than fixating on hurt, surprise or disappointment when they don’t respond to me how I expect them to.

I will delight in how they are precious to me and pray for their protection.

This area probably hits the hardest: the threat of losing our loved ones. I don’t know what will happen, but today, I want to appreciate those who are precious to me rather than living in dread of losing them. I will cherish the people that God has put in my life and thank him for the gift that they are. I will praise him for providing a way for us to continue our relationships in eternity, with all the time in the world and none of the struggle or pain or physical ailments to get in the way of enjoying each other; even if he allows us to be separated for a time. And while I recognize that God’s goodness, provision and protection do not always look like I expect them to[1], I will remember that He is capable of keeping my people safe and healing their bodies if they get sick. He listens intently to my every request, so I will pray and pray and pray for Him to protect them as often as they come to mind.

I will think of one way God has taken care of me in the past and release my desire to see and control the future.

And I said, “This is my fate;
    the Most High has turned his hand against me.”
But then I recall all you have done, O Lord;
    I remember your wonderful deeds of long ago.
They are constantly in my thoughts.
    I cannot stop thinking about your mighty works.

Psalm 77:10-12

Because God has not let me in on all the details of his plan for my future, it is easy for me to grow fearful and skeptical as I face the uncertainty ahead. It is tempting to expend all of my energy searching for some clue as to how this will go so I can prepare perfectly. When things seem to take a turn for the worst, I can start to wonder if He’s on my side at all. But one of the most effective things to settle my frustrated, searching heart is to stop and remember one way God has specifically cared for me in the past. This is the God that has revealed his heart for me, intervened for me and worked on my behalf in so many creative and varied ways. When I cannot predict his plan, I must return to the evidence of his character. When I’m unsettled over a future I cannot see or control, I will trust the heart of the One who can see and control all that is to come.

I will name how my needs have been met today and ask God to faithfully meet my needs tomorrow.

When I’m used to God meeting my needs one way, I can grow attached to how things work right now and be really thrown by major changes. But God often uses these transition periods when my fine-tuned system no longer functions to help me see that I have stopped looking to him for help; I have shifted my trust to my system, my ability, and my management. He lovingly allows my systems to break down so that I will learn that he is just as able to provide for me in a new way. The changes I’m adjusting to did not catch him by surprise. When my thoughts drift to my finances and I start trying to calculate if we will be okay, I will stop and ask this question: Do I have what I need today? I will name the things I notice that God has already put in place, on this day. I will remember that, whatever is next, he is able to provide what I need, maybe in a new way I haven’t yet thought of. I will lay down my calculations and ask him for help, because he is faithful to answer the one who waits on him.

“I am the Lord who opened a way through the waters, making a dry path through the sea…But forget all that – it is nothing compared to what I am going to do.”

Isaiah 43:16, 18

“So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs.”

Matthew 6:31-32

I will rest in the freedom I have been given to just do my best. I will think of how to love people instead of how to impress them.

Comparison kills us: whether it’s how you’re handling your kids’ educational needs; whether you’re still running errands or in full-on quarantine; whether you have the opportunity to work from home or must brave the public workplace. We all feel the expectations of others, and there’s a lot of guidelines and opinions out there. It can make me feel crushed and like there’s no right answer. But I believe that in this, just like in any season, we have been given the freedom to start each day, hold it before the Lord, and ask him to guide us step by step. I’m just not going to get a 100% approval rating with how I end up performing in that, but one of the most freeing things ever is knowing that I don’t have to be on the same page as someone else to take care of them, to be kind to them, to sacrificially work for their good. So I will lay aside the burden to impress others, take up the calling I’ve been given to love them, and then just do the best I can before an audience of One.

“The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives.”

Psalm 37:23

“Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. Let us not become conceited, or provoke one another, or be jealous of one another.”

Galatians 5:25-26

[1] A thought Lysa Terkeurst does a great job exploring in her awesome Trustworthy Bible study

On Dread & Distance: Biblical guidelines for how to respond to the Coronavirus Pandemic

Dread: Psalm 91

“Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness…”
— Psalm 91:6

The first instruction I want to consider is the one that reminds me to turn my heart to the Lord and entrust my life to Him. He gives instructions to tend to my heart (Proverbs 4:23), to let his peace rule (Colossians 3:15), and to not let myself be overcome by dread or terror.

More on that later.

Distance: Leviticus 13

“Those who suffer from a serious skin disease must tear their clothing and leave their hair uncombed. They must cover their mouth and call out, ‘Unclean! Unclean!’  As long as the serious disease lasts, they will be ceremonially unclean. They must live in isolation in their place outside the camp.”
Leviticus 13:45-46

Social distancing, quarantine and isolation protocols were actually God’s idea! All the way back in ancient times, he gave Israel instructions to keep those who were contagious separate from the living quarters of the main community, and to have them warn others in an obvious way so they didn’t get close enough to contract skin diseases unwittingly.

It’s important to set my heart on the Lord and trust in his protection so that I don’t react in a panic; but it’s also wise to practice thoughtful caution once I recognize that an illness has a propensity to spread.

Even Jesus, when presented with the promises of protection outlined in Psalm 91, refused to use them as an excuse to be reckless and put that protection to the test.

This virus is an extremely effective traveler! Not only does it spread by air droplets, but a recent study found that live COVID-19 virus was still detected up to 72 hours after application to plastic and stainless steel surfaces.

Rather than labeling the limiting measures that are being put in place as giving in to fear, I’m recognizing that it can actually be an act of love to lay down my freedoms and my plans in order to protect the health of those who are more vulnerable than I am. We can’t control every factor, but if our actions can help to limit how many people an illness affects, we may count those hard choices a worthwhile sacrifice.

God is absolutely able to deliver us from disease, just as He protected Israel from all the plagues that assaulted Egypt; but he does not promise believers immunity or an immediate fix for the physical struggles we face. He promises to deliver us eventually into a life without sickness, without pain; and to walk with us through all we face in the meantime.

“The Lord says, “I will rescue those who love me.
    I will protect those who trust in my name.
When they call on me, I will answer;
    I will be with them in trouble.
    I will rescue and honor them.”

Psalm 91:14-15

Why does Coronavirus Makes Some People So Sick?

The COVID-19 virus attacks lung tissue. Most people present with mild respiratory symptoms and then recover; their body deals with the virus, then rebuilds the damage. But in some people, the sick who take a turn for severely sick, it’s not directly because of damage done by the virus. It’s because of something called a cytokine storm.

As the virus damages lung tissue, the cells send out a chemical distress signal (called cytokines) that draws immune cells to the damaged site to help. In some patients, this cytokine release prompts an overreaction of the immune system. Instead of “sniper mode,” where the white blood cells target and ingest foreign bodies, or the killer T lymphocytes scan for markers they recognize as belonging to the virus and kill only those cells; the body switches to “guns blazing” mode.

The immune cells flood the area in trouble, destroying any and all tissue in their path in an over-the-top campaign to save the rest of the body. The virus is taken out in the cross-fire, but so is the viable lung tissue that was still getting oxygen to the bloodstream.

The immune system was only trying to get rid of the threat, but in the process, it compromised the body’s ability to breathe. Those are the patients that end up on a ventilator, trying to oxygenate a body whose lungs have become a warzone. In the sickest patients of all, this hyperactive response of the immune system even damages the liver and kidneys, causing multiple organ failure.

A Microscopic Analogy for Fear

While learning about this disease process and immune response, I was surprised at what a good picture it was of the destructive nature of fear.

Wisdom and caution are excellent guides to our thoughts. But when we start to use fear as the basis of our decisions, it’s like a runaway immune system whose overreaction can compromise the body’s ability to breathe.

We must weigh each choice, each issue with care and calm, and thoughtfully take such measures as we deem necessary. But when we get in a panic and start overanalyzing and overpreparing, rushing on the outside and running in circles on the inside; when we try to control what we cannot control; when we turn inward toward ourselves for solutions instead of outward to our God for help, we are the immune system who is overreacting.

We have stopped targeting and started blindly launching missiles and wildly throwing grenades. As collateral tissue is destroyed in the lungs, fluid begins to leak in, drowning the patient. As we give in to fearful thoughts, they open the gateway to more fearful thoughts, and we drown in them.

And so God lovingly instructs us not to live in dread.

So Practically,  What Do I Do?

The Lord has given me a strong warning not to think like everyone else does. He said,
“Don’t call everything a conspiracy, like they do,
    and don’t live in dread of what frightens them.
Make the Lord of Heaven’s Armies holy in your life.
    He is the one you should fear.
He is the one who should make you tremble.
He will keep you safe…

Isaiah 8:11-14

When our thoughts are tempted to lean into an exaggerated response, may we learn to firmly place them on the One who is worthy of our attention and worship. It is often in walking through darkness and disaster that we get to know him most. In sickness, in peril, in struggle, in discouragement, in deep and miry pits, we find Him faithful.

I waited patiently for the Lord to help me,
    and he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the pit of despair,
    out of the mud and the mire.
He set my feet on solid ground
    and steadied me as I walked along.
He has given me a new song to sing,
    a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see what he has done and be amazed.
    They will put their trust in the Lord.
Oh, the joys of those who trust the Lord…

Psalm 40:1-4

So, be wise. Be careful. Prepare prudently. Do all you can to protect others. And when you have done all you can do; do not fear what you cannot control. Do not allow fear to turn you inward so that you only see yourself, your inconveniences, and your losses. Look up. Look out. Press into our Savior. See those He has called you to love. Let Him lead you in how.

However this plays out, we will look back and see that He led us well. May we also look back and see that our words and actions in the midst of crisis were characterized by the One who lives and rules within:

Loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, faithful, gentle, self-controlled.


  • Aerosol and surface stability of HCoV-19 (SARS-CoV-2) compared to SARS-CoV-1, NEJM Original Article, Contributors: Neeltje van Doremalen, Trenton Bushmaker, Dylan H. Morris, Myndi G. Holbrook, Amandine Gamble, Brandi N. Williamson, Azaibi Tamin, Jennifer L. Harcourt, Natalie J. Thornburg, Susan I. Gerber, James O. Lloyd-Smith, Emmie de Wit, Vincent J. Munster   website: https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.03.09.20033217v1.full.pdf

Related Reading

5 Steps to a Light Heart in a Season Heavy with Coronavirus Concerns
Buy A Field: on normal in the midst of crisis
Rags, not Rope: on kindness in crisis

A Voice Said “Shout!”: on wrenching our attention toward what is lasting

A voice said, “Shout!”

I asked, “What should I shout?”

“Shout that people are like grass. Their beauty fades quickly as the flowers in a field. The grass withers and the flowers fade beneath the breath of the Lord, and so it is with people…But the Word of our God stands forever.”

Isaiah 40:6-8

When I was growing up, my dad had a rule: If there was screaming, there had better be blood.

He didn’t want us shouting about just anything. He wanted to know when he really needed to pay attention, when we were in trouble, when he should come running.

Part of growing up is learning to weigh our reactions to things, learning what is worthy of raising our voice; what things can we handle quietly and what are the things to which we must draw the attention of others?

So as I read this verse about the fading beauty of plants and people and the permanence of the Word of God, I knew it was true, but it raised the question: Why is this something to shout about?


I think it’s because otherwise, it eludes our attention.

We fix our eyes on the here and now and the people around us. We become obsessed with our appearance and our status and obtaining the respect of all who look upon us and we forget how quickly all that we’re striving for fades.

We need it shouted in our faces: All that beauty? All the achievement? All that we have built? Gone. As quick as a withering plant. Impossible to hold onto. Dying. Fading. Passing. Like annuals, they flower and die within one season. Appreciate them, but don’t make them your end-all.

Shout it.

Shout it until it sinks into your brain and you are breathless and finally asking the million-dollar question: If not this, then what?

What lasts? What stands? What holds its beauty season after season?

The Word of God. 

So cherish it, pursue understanding it, fix your attention on it, live your life following it.

If not me, then who?

Who lasts? Who stands? Who holds their beauty season after season?

The Word of God.

Who took on a human body and lived among us, who defeated death and has become our cornerstone. There is rescue and hope and lasting honor in no other name.

So cherish him, pursue understanding him, fix your attention on him, and live your life following him.

People are like grass, but the Word of God stands. May we learn to build on what is lasting. May we hold on tight to what does not fade away.


In all that I chase after and all that I build, may I not be the one who ignores you for the sake of chasing after the withering, fading treasures that the world holds up as worthy.

May I learn to shout to my own soul until it shakes off its distracted gaze, fixes its eyes on you alone and runs hard in the race you have set before me. You are the prize my heart must learn to treasure. 

You alone are worthy.

“All the nations of the world are but a drop in the bucket. They are nothing more than dust on the scales…All the wood in Lebanon’s forests and all Lebanon’s animals would not be enough to make a burnt offering worthy of our God.”

Isaiah 40:15-16