“The idea that you have to stay in your house is disturbingly close to house arrest,” Attorney General William Barr admitted. “I’m not saying it wasn’t justified. I’m not saying in some places it might still be justified. But it’s very onerous, as is shutting down your livelihood.” Indeed, restless Americans across the country are finding it extremely difficult to remain confined to their homes as their livelihoods are increasingly jeopardized. There is now open talk of civil disobedience as Americans face the very real prospect of a new Great Depression.
In just five weeks our country shifted from having more jobs available than workers to witnessing over 26 million Americans file for unemployment aid. Incredible as this figure may be, the true number of unemployed is likely far higher. As of last week, only 19 states were accepting applications from gig workers and others who don’t normally qualify for aid but are supposed to receive help during the coronavirus pandemic, likely making the actual job loss numbers considerably higher. Even so, approximately one-in-five American workers are now officially unemployed.
Combine the stress of losing one’s job with that of being confined to one’s home, and it is not surprising that police across the country are experiencing an increase in domestic disturbance calls. Similarly, COVID-19 concerns now dominate calls to emotional support hotlines. Throughout the country, suicide prevention centers are reporting substantially higher volumes of calls, such as the Disaster Distress Helpline at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Calls last month increased 891% from March 2019. According to those involved, individuals are experiencing economic stress, social isolation, increases in domestic violence, and a decrease in access to community and religious support. People are burning through their savings, losing their jobs, and becoming more isolated.
An emotional sea of angst, anxiety, anger, dread, loneliness, and hopelessness is welling-up within America. Given enough time, it threatens to overwhelm everyone. How then can we as Christians protect ourselves from succumbing to these emotions? How can we preserve our confidence and joy in an unsettled time of economic collapse and isolation? Perhaps the experience of Asaph described in Psalm 77 can provide the way forward.
The testimony of Asaph is filled with valuable insights to overcome stress and despair. Asaph was overwhelmed. His soul refused to be comforted (v. 2), and he was so troubled that he could not speak (v. 4). Faced with such debilitating despair, Asaph turned to the Lord, “I cry aloud to God, aloud to God, and he will hear me. In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord” (vv. 1–2). Asaph then recalled the faithfulness of God, “I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your wonders of old. I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds” (vv. 11–12).
Emotions such as anger, anxiety, grief, and loneliness have a way of clouding our memories. If we are to follow Asaph’s example, then we must be intentional about recalling examples of God’s faithfulness in our lives. We must persevere through our emotional fog. It is not by accident that Asaph described his efforts with words such as consider, meditate, and diligence, “I consider the days of old, the years long ago. I said, ‘Let me remember my song in the night; let me meditate in my heart.’ Then my spirit made a diligent search” (Psa. 77:5–6).
Equally as important as recalling God’s faithfulness toward us is to evaluate our faithfulness toward God. In Psalm 18, David celebrated how God rescued him from King Saul and David’s enemies who sought to kill him. This was a time of great distress for David who writes, “The cords of death encompassed me; the torrents of destruction assailed me, the cords of Sheol entangled me; the snares of death confronted me” (vv. 4–5). Like Asaph, David’s trouble prompted him to call upon the Lord, “In my distress I called upon the LORD; to my God I cried for help” (v. 6).
God heard David’s cry for help and moved heaven and earth to rescue him (vv. 6 – 17). The poetic description is quite impressive. God is said to have mounted the cherubim and bowed the heavens as He raced to David’s rescue (vv. 9–10).
Praising God, David writes, “The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies” (v. 2–3). But David understood that God was responding to David’s faithfulness, “The LORD dealt with me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands he rewarded me. For I have kept the ways of the LORD, and have not wickedly departed from my God” (vv. 20–21).
Because David was obedient to God’s commands, the full majesty and power of God was standing by to rush to David’s aid when called upon, “For all his rules were before me, and his statues I did not put away from me. I was blameless before him, and I kept myself from my guilt. So the LORD has rewarded me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands in his sight” (vv. 22–24). Because of David’s faithfulness to God, there was nothing impeding God’s aid.
God offers refuge in our most trying times. David describes God as a fortress, but fortresses do not move (v. 2). Instead, people move into a fortress for refuge. Only those who abide in God can have the level of confidence expressed by David in Psalm 18, “By you I can run against a troop, and by my God I can leap over a wall. This God—his way is perfect; the word of the LORD proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him” (vv. 29–30).
When we are faithful to God and abide within His refuge, we have nothing to fear. Great difficulties may come, and strong emotions may assail us, but we can be confident that the Almighty God will rescue us. Not only will He rescue us, but He will bless us by transforming even our most devastating difficulties into something for our good: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28).
These are difficult times, but they need not be times of despair. Unfortunately, many of us cannot say, as David did, that our hands are clean and that we’ve been faithful to obey all God’s instructions. As such, when we recall God’s faithfulness, it only stirs feelings of guilt. It may be that we must first cry aloud to God in repentance and renew our commitment to Him. Fortunately, God promises to save those who are humble (Psa. 18:27) and to forgive all who are sincere (1 John 1:9).
Once we have realigned our hearts with God’s heart and have determined to take refuge in Him, then we can cry aloud to God for help with full confidence that He will respond. We can recall His faithfulness in the past with anticipation of how He will demonstrate His faithfulness in the present. And we can rest in the assurance that God will accomplish good for us during these difficult times regardless of how devastating they may appear to be. Like Asaph in Psalm 77:13, we will be able to declare even in our time of difficulty, “Your way, O God, is holy. What god is great like our God?”
1.“Attorney General William Barr on the Crisis.” Transcript of interview between Hugh Hewitt and William Barr. Hugh Hewitt Show, April 21, 2020. https://www.hughhewitt.com/attorney-general-william-barr-on-the-crisis/.
2. Silverstein, Jason. “Attorney General William Barr Says Coronavirus Shutdowns Are Like ‘House Arrest’ and Threatens Legal Action against States.” News. CBS News, April 22, 2020, 4:38 p.m. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/william-barr-attorney-general-coronavirus-shutdown-legal-action-threats/.
3. Associated Press. “The U.S. Has 1 Million More Job Openings Than Unemployed Workers.” News. CBS News, March 15, 2019, 6:57 p.m. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/the-u-s-has-1-million-more-job-openings-than-unemployed-workers/.
4. Henderson, Tim. “Help Wanted: Too Many Jobs and Not Enough Workers in Most States.” Money. USA Today, October 15, 2019, 9:00 a.m., ET. Last updated October 15, 2019, 8:10 p.m., ET. https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2019/10/15/labor-shortage-more-jobs-than-people-looking-them-most-states/3974954002/.
5. Siegel, Rachel and Andrew Van Dam. “4.4 Million Americans Sought Jobless Benefits Last Week, as Economic Pain Continued Across the United States.” Economy. Washington Post, April 23, 2020, 10:45 a.m., EDT. https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/04/23/economy-coronavirus-unemployment/.
6. Long, Heather. “U.S. Now Has 22 Million Unemployed, Wiping out a Decade of Job Gains.” Economy. Washington Post, April 16, 2020, 7:16 p.m., EDT. https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/04/16/unemployment-claims-coronavirus/.
7. Siegel, “4.4 Million Americans Sought Jobless Benefits Last Week, as Economic Pain Continued Across the United States.”
8. Kingkade, Tyler. “Police See Rise in Domestic Violence Calls Amid Coronavirus Lockdown.” News. NBC News, April 5, 2020, 4:52 a.m., EDT. https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/police-see-rise-domestic-violence-calls-amid-coronavirus-lockdown-n1176151.
9. Norcross, Geoff and Courtney Sherwood. “COVID-19 Concerns Dominate Calls to Emotional Support Hotlines.” News. Oregon Public Broadcasting, April 9, 2020, 10:34 a.m. Last updated April 9, 2020, 12:23 p.m. https://www.opb.org/news/article/covid-19-coronavirus-concerns-emotional-support-hotlines/.
10. Levine, Mike. “Calls to US Helpline Jump 891%, as White House Is Warned of Mental Health Crisis.” Politics. ABC News, April 7, 2020, 4:09 a.m. https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/calls-us-helpline-jump-891-white-house-warned/story?id=70010113.
11. Bharath, Deepa. “Suicide, Help Hotline Calls Soar in Southern California over Coronavirus Anxieties.” News. Orange County Register, April 19, 2020, 6:30 a.m. Last updated April 22, 2020, 8:20 a.m. https://www.ocregister.com/2020/04/19/suicide-help-hotline-calls-soar-in-southern-california-over-coronavirus-anxieties/.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright ©2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.