By Bill Mowry –
I feel like I need some soul-therapy as I shelter-in-place. It’s been over three weeks since I’ve been in a store or a restaurant. It’s been over three weeks since I talked with a non-family member closer than six feet away. It’s been four weeks since I’ve been in a Lowe’s or Home Depot (maybe the hardest separation!). On top of that, I’m bombarded by life-threatening statistics and images through the media.
Peggy and I are grateful for God’s protection and provision but sometimes our emotions see-saw up and down according to the latest news cycle. Our hearts go out to people with a houseful of children, friends who live in a current “hot spot,” or people who have been “furloughed” (a polite way for saying “laid off” or “fired”).
Seeking solace in the Scriptures, I came across Psalm 77. In this Psalm, life is crashing down around the writer. He questions God’s presence. His emotions run high. Here are some snippets:
“soul was not comforted”
“overwhelmed with longing for his help”
“Have his promises permanently failed?”
The Psalmist then discovers a life-line, a therapy for his discouragement: “But then I recall all you have done, O LORD; I remember your wondrous deeds of long ago” (Psalm 77:11 NLT).
We have a digital album on an end table in our garden room. A new photo appears on the screen every six seconds. The digital album flips from vacation photos to photos of friends to photos of two adorable twin boys (our grandchildren!). I love going to this room just to sit and look at the pictures. These visual memories are therapy for me — they lift my heart and thoughts to wonderful people, places, and times.
I think something like this happened to the Psalmist. He didn’t have a digital album but his mind flashed from picture to picture of God’s faithfulness.
Our life is full of God-moments. But we must take time to allow the Holy Spirit to scroll these memories through our minds. This is good therapy for the soul. This is the type of therapy the Psalmist discovered as he “recalls” and “remembers.” His example points to three simple therapies for the sheltered-in-place:
- Capture the God-sightings
- Capture the God-lessons
- Write them down
A God-sighting is like an Elvis-sighting. For years, you couldn’t go through a grocery store check-out aisle without spotting a tabloid headlining how Elvis was sighted at a car wash or a movie theatre. Elvis had faked his death and was popping up in un-expected places! Our Lord is like this — He shows up in unexpected places.
If we’re not careful, we can end up like Jacob, who lamented, “Surely the Lord is in this place and I was not aware of it” (Genesis 28:16 NIV). When I’m on the hunt for God I can see His presence in the truckers who deliver our groceries, in the medical professionals who care for the sick, or in the neighbor who takes initiative to be friendly. God-sightings reminds me of His presence and His work — even in the midst of a pandemic. I must mentally collect these sightings and scroll them through my mind.
Not only does God show up but he shows up to teach. King David instructs us that creation speaks to us day and night, “without a sound or word; their voice is never heard” (Psalm 19:3-4 NLT). How does He show up and silently teach? Our Lord uses life’e events — like sheltering-in-place — to speak into our lives. We must capture these God-lessons.
I capture God-lessons by looking outward to His Word. What is He teaching me through the Scriptures? How is His word providing comfort, hope, or conviction in this Corvid 19 season? To capture God-lessons means taking time to reflect on His word. We must create what my friend Russ calls a “device-free zone” in our homes. I put away my cell phone, laptop, or iPad to open up the Scriptures and invite the Holy Spirit to put a spotlight on my life.
I capture the God-lessons by looking inward — at my beliefs, values, and decisions. What is the coronavirus teaching me about comfort, security, or hopes? What am I discovering about what I really trust in or value? I look inward, asking the Holy Spirit to be my teacher, seeking to learn life’s lessons. This therapy has one more step.
I must write down the God-sightings and the God-lessons. We can read David’s insights because someone wrote them down. I love the expression in Psalm 139:17 (ESV), “How precious to me are your thoughts, O God. How vast is the sum of them.” If God’s thoughts are “precious and vast” then I should write them down. Secure a small journal and start writing.
I’m journaling every day. I write down the current events, my emotional state, and a discovery from my daily reflection on the Scriptures. I don’t care about punctuation, grammar, or sentence construction. My goal is to process daily what God is teaching me. I’m looking forward to reading my journal a year from now.
Someone told me — “tongue-in-cheek”— that this sheltering time is an “introvert’s dream.” Introverts don’t mind staying at home, away from people to read and think. These three therapies are not just for introverts! Extroverts can engage in group therapy.
Invite your spouse, your friends, or your neighbors to join in the God-hunt. Ask one another, “Where did God show up today?” “What is He teaching you?” “Let me share what I wrote down.” Start a therapy group around these three exercises and see how God changes thoughts, emotions, and actions.
Three simple therapies can turn our sheltering-in-place experience into God’s classroom for a changed life — a new way of encountering Him. Discipline yourself to record your God-sightings and God-lessons. Create a therapy group of other God-chasers.
Practicing these therapies will pivot our focus from self to our Lord. We now enter into how He is playing out His story in our lives and in our worlds. Let’s choose to be whole and healthy in Christ as we live in a very unhealthy world.
More resources available from Bill Mowry @ www.alongside.com