Handling the normal stressors of life is in itself challenging. For many, adding the additional stressors as a result of a global pandemic turns everyday stress into mega-stress. I have been mulling over my management mechanisms for stress. I thought I would pass along some of my musings on managing stress in a series of blogs.
The teacher in me alliterated the practices as:
Living in a community contributes to the wellbeing of humans.
Being actively social and having close friends is good for our mental and emotional health and our physical vitality. The current need for social distancing limits our options for connecting. Potentially this could affect our health. This awareness has motivated me to reflect on the nature of the spiritual connection between humans. The Christian paradigm recognizes the existence of a spiritual realm and the spiritual connection and unity between human beings.
I have heard the testimonies of numerous people over the years who have been in dire straits. They have felt the prayers of those praying for them from a distance. For them, this experience was a more profound reality than simply being intellectually aware that folks were praying for them. On one occasion, a close friend was facing severe cancer issues and undergoing treatment at a hospital 100 miles from our town. Later he shared his testimony about feeling the prayers of those who were praying for him. He added that he heard one of the senior ladies in our church praying. He listened to her voice and the content of her prayer as she prayed.
In our ministry, Joanne and I have engaged in a lot of travel regionally and internationally. We have developed meaningful relationships across the globe. Social media allows us to maintain a certain level of connection with those relationships across the miles. We sometimes wish we could be physically present everywhere at once. That is not possible in the physical realm. It is possible in the spiritual realm. Let me give you a couple of examples.
My ordination to the ministry occurred in May of 1979. My full-time vocational ministry officially began two years earlier in April of 1977. In the months between the commencement of my ministry and my ordination, others had the opportunity to watch me. They had the chance to discern if I indeed had the call and the necessary graces for ministry. I also developed relationships with the regional pastors in our denomination. They were able to know me as a friend and colleague. My ordination council was composed of those pastors and members of our local congregation. My ordination was an affirmation of my call and grace for ministry. I walked away from the ordination service with more than a certificate signed by members of that council. I walked away with a spiritual connection to that council of ordainers and the congregation that certified the counsel’s recommendation. This bond is a source of spiritual hutzpah! That spiritual union remains to this day.
In the summer of the year 2000, I resigned as Senior Pastor of our local church. Joanne and I stepped out into the apostolic ministry. A year later, August 5, 2001, our local church hosted a commissioning service for us. The Eldership and congregation had watched us for a year and decided that we had the grace needed for apostolic ministry. I did not ask the church to do this. The Holy Spirit inspired it. During the commissioning, the Pastor declared the text of Isaiah 49:8-12 over us. When I reflect on that service, this passage comes to mind.
“Thus says the Lord: “In an acceptable time I have heard You, And in the day of salvation I have helped You; I will preserve You and give You As a covenant to the people, To restore the earth, To cause them to inherit the desolate heritages; That You may say to the prisoners, ‘Go forth,’ To those who are in darkness, ‘Show yourselves.’ “They shall feed along the roads, And their pastures shall be on all desolate heights. They shall neither hunger nor thirst, Neither heat nor sun shall strike them; For He who has mercy on them will lead them, Even by the springs of water, He will guide them. I will make each of My mountains a road, And My highways shall be elevated. Surely these shall come from afar; Look! Those from the north and the west, And these from the land of Sinim.”
This passage also comes to mind:
“But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the Scriptures say, “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!” (Romans 10:14–15, NLT, emphasis mine)
A year earlier was had stepped out in apostolic ministry. Now we were being sent out in apostolic ministry by our local church leadership and congregation. Not only were they sending, but they were also going with us in the Spirit. We were one with them in the Spirit. I could sense this Body’s presence even when halfway around the globe. Spiritual resistance to our ministry comes in many forms. From time to time, we have encountered the demonic realm in our travels. Demons attempt to be intimidating and enjoy mocking those who represent Jesus Christ. Demons pose questions in a mocking tone like, “Who are you?” Who do you think you are?” Why are you here?” My answer, “Members of the Body of Christ, affirmed our call and graces and has sent us here. They are here with us now!! HOOAH!”
In this season of physical distancing, remember those who are in your circle of meaningful relationships. Even though they may be distant physically, they are with you in Spirit. Draw upon that spiritual reality as you face your stressors.