In the wilderness we may feel alone, frustrated, abandoned, disoriented, inadequate and without control of our lives. Something like what we are experiencing now with COVID-19.
The world is stressed out. People are anxious about contracting COVID-19, and many are worried about getting seriously ill or dying from it. Businesses have shut their doors, markets are falling, and we may be headed toward a global recession.
As believers of an Almighty God, we should not feel hopeless. Scripture reminds us not to be anxious, but prayerful (Philippians 4:6-7). There are also simple tasks we can do to maintain a healthy mindset — like maintaining a regular morning devotional time, developing a schedule we can stick with, getting a good night’s sleep, exercising, and eating healthy. These practices can help fight feelings of depression, stress, anxiety, and vulnerability.
This is also a great time to develop more eco-friendly habits and reconnect with the outdoors. Taking a walk, a hike, a bike ride, or reading outdoors can help combat a fear of claustrophobia, or of catching a virus.
Using Creativity to Cope
A growing number of people, including myself, are using creativity as a way to cope: They are using art, photography, music, painting, drawing, and digital design, as a way to keep busy and distracted from the stresses of COVID-19.
Music in particular has always brought people together, especially in difficult times, like when we saw recently in Italy where neighbors came together in songs. Art doesn’t just unify us — it physically benefits us, too. Studies show that spending just minutes on an art project can relieve stress, strengthen critical thinking skills and improve and sustain memory. Murals are also being painted in big cities as a response to this pandemic. This has been my personal response to this situation as I have tried to cope.
As an artist, a certain amount of “social distancing” was already a part of my routine, with long hours spent within closed doors creating the next project, and as a preacher that included creating the next Zoom sermon. Now, coping with the broader effects of COVID-19, I have decided to intentionally do additional things to maintain a spirit of thankfulness during these anxious times.
Get to Work on a Project
I have been taking advantage of this time to focus on the projects I have pending. It’s important for me to seize every moment presented to me and take advantage of those opportunities. This way I not only finish paid work, but I also keep busy and avoid negativity from staining my mind.
If you don’t have a passion project at the ready, then use this time to find one. Do research, read a book, and/or get involved in the community. If harnessed in the right ways, what seems like a disconcerting amount of spare time can be extremely fruitful. I think planning something to do can help you feel optimistic and maintain a feeling of motivation and the challenge of accomplishment.
Though it might feel like the world is getting more insular in lockdown, it’s an opportunity for us to uplift and support people at their most vulnerable times. Whether it’s sharing an encouraging response to a created project posted online, lifting someone up in prayer, contributing financially, or just tuning into a live stream for human contact, these actions provide us with ways to connect.
Staying in touch at this moment shouldn’t stop simply because we can’t be next to each other. We may be physically distancing from each other, but we shouldn’t be socially distancing.
I am trying to see the silver lining. While keeping a safe distance from each other, I have participated in several mural projects with other local artists, painting messages of love, hope and unity. We’re all in it together, and I don’t think we should stop reaching out to our friends, making new friends, and impacting our communities.
Embrace the Slowness
I’m also taking this time to reflect and pray. I read to stay stimulated as I reflect on God’s purpose for my life. Remembering why God created me, my love for painting and storytelling, self-expression, and the promise of eternal life in Jesus Christ, keeps me going.
This has also been a time for deeper introspection. When we are forced to pause, we can use this time for reevaluation and relationship-building with God. Think about what your work is meant to do, how do you want it to shape the world around you. Knowing this, you will then understand your purpose in life; it will help you stay focused and in love with your craft.
I’m seeing this as God allowing us to experience the wilderness to help us grow and to detach us from consumerism. Creating isn’t just the product, it is a process. It’s the process of taking inspiration and directing it into something tangible. This is our chance to declutter our minds and focus on holistic growth and development.
The Wilderness: A Time of Growth
It is my firm conviction that what we think of as a wilderness/quarantine experience is really that time in our walk with God when the road becomes narrow, with room for only God and me. Such an experience enables me to develop the talents and special gifts He has ordained me with. He is doing with what He did with several individuals in the Bible, including His Son. What happened after these individuals experienced the wilderness/quarantine? After experiencing the wilderness, Moses developed as a leader, Joshua developed as a warrior, David became a king, John the Baptist created his ministry, and Jesus Christ became our Savior.
The wilderness is never easy, but it is for our good, if we allow ourselves to be trained by it. Those who are best trained are most happy, free, and thankful, wherever their journey leads. It is only those who are sweetly called by God into and from the wilderness, and take advantage of that time to grow and develop their God-given gift, who understand, appreciate, and truly know the purpose of life, God’s love, power, and grace.
The wall mural shown above was painted by Milt Coronado as an expression of support for the family of the young woman who was a victim of violence. Watch the short news video to learn more.
Milton Coronado writes from Illinois.
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