Emotions in the midst of the PANDEMIC

The Gospel of Mark (chapter 4:35-40) presents a story similar to the one we are all experiencing today. The story begins with, “That day, when the night came.” Night comes to all of us at some point in life. That night comes after a day where peace and tranquility clear all worries that would later change our world. There is no doubt that night has come into our lives. How did this night come into your life? Night may have come in the form of a crisis. There are different types of crises. Situational crises are problems and conflicts that come to life in unexpected ways. Developmental crises are crises that we experience as a result of emotional development, family or personal cycles that we are experiencing through different stages of our lives.

Now this story takes a very attractive color, because even though the night comes for Jesus and His disciples, Jesus invites them to go to the other side of the lake. There are things that He does that do not make sense to the human being. Every time Jesus does something that doesn’t make sense, it is because he wants to teach us a lesson. There were many conditions that caused the journey on the Lake of Galilee to be uncertain. The position of the lake could raise storms in unexpected ways. They did not have the navigation instruments that exist today, but their experience as fishermen made the difference. Despite the disadvantages they had before the night came into their lives, Jesus invited them to “go to the other shore of the lake.”

Despite the Covid-19 crisis that has come on this cold night of our lives, Jesus invites us to go to the other shore. This expression, “going to the other shore” is closely connected with the experience of the people of Israel when they were challenged to “go to the other shore” on their journey to the earthly Canaan. Today in our journey toward the Heavenly Canaan, God invites us to go to the other shore. The shore of liberation and final victory. The shore of the Heavenly Canaan.

It is interesting to note that despite the beautiful invitation that Jesus makes to his disciples to go to the other shore, the storm still arrives. You have the right to wonder, is it not that I am obeying the command of Jesus to go to the other shore? How is it possible for a storm to rise in obedience to Jesus’ command? Not only that, but with Jesus walking at my side. These questions are very valid. The truth is, that accepting the invitation to be a disciple of Jesus and moving to the other shore does not make us immune to experiencing storms on our journey.

Furthermore, Jesus tells us that it is normal for storms to come into our lives as we travel through the troubled waters to the other shore. “In the world, you will have afflictions,” says Jesus. And isn’t that what we are experiencing today? We are distressed by the storm that has risen in our lives and threatens to destroy us. This storm has come in the form of Covid-19. A deadly virus that has destroyed cities, systems and today threatens to sink our lives. A virus that has the most powerful country in the world paralyzed without knowing how to behave in the face of this crisis. We have never experienced a crisis like this one. And the problem is not simply in the storm, but in the uncertainty that the coronavirus brings.

Now, how can we live in the midst of the coronavirus storm? If we go to the biblical text in discussion, we see two attitudes that we can take. We see the disciples anxious and desperate because they are afraid that they will lose their lives. On the other hand, we see Jesus sleeping in the middle of the storm. How is it possible that there can be two such different reactions in the midst of this storm experience?

It all lies in the way we interpret the storm or crisis that comes into our lives. Our thoughts define how we are going to interpret our reality, our crisis. And if we dig a little deeper into this concept, we will find that our thoughts define our emotions and behaviors. Epictetus said: “We are altered not by events, but by the way we interpret events.” In other words, the way I interpret the storm that I am experiencing is going to influence how I feel and how I am going to behave before it.

Let’s go back to the boat where Jesus and his disciples are facing the storm that came to them in their dark night. In the midst of the storm, the thoughts the disciples have are thoughts of danger, uncertainty, threat and death. Those thoughts produce emotions that are not difficult to decipher; emotions such as fear and anguish at the threat of the storm. That is why they behave desperately, anxiously, and try to find solutions to the problem apart from Jesus.

Now, let’s analyze the reaction of Jesus who is in the same boat and experiences the same storm that the disciples are experiencing. What are Jesus’ thoughts about the storm? “My Heavenly Father is in control of my life. I have nothing to fear.” Those thoughts produced emotions of serenity, peace and security. His behavior was obvious then, in the middle of the storm, Jesus was sleeping.

Tell me, who can sleep in the middle of a storm? What can we say made the difference between the disciples’ emotions and behavior and the fact that Jesus was sleeping? The difference was not made by the storm. Both groups experienced the same storm. The difference was in the way they interpreted the storm. The disciples interpreted it as a threat to their lives, while Jesus interpreted it as an opportunity to trust more in his Heavenly Father who cared for His life.

I ask you in the midst of the night that has come to your being, how do you interpret the Covid-19 storm? The thoughts you have about this phenomenon will make the difference between whether you will be anxious and desperate, or in peace and tranquility as Jesus was in His storm.

I want to leave you with five tips. These tips are in the way Paul decided to interpret the storms that came on his dark nights. He says in Philippians 4:8 “For the rest, brethren, all that is true, all that is honest, all that is just, all that is pure, all that is kind, all that is of good name; if there is any virtue, if something worthy of praise, think of this.”

  1. Label the emotion. The emotion you are experiencing, such as sadness, anguish, pain, give it a name.
  2. Identify the thoughts that lead you to experience those negative or positive emotions. Ask yourself, “do I think about what is honest, fair, pure, kind, or of good name?” You cannot change until you are aware of the toxic thought that is leading you to experience the emotion and behavior that you have.
  3. Focus on changing your thoughts. In other words, change your thinking because your thoughts are what define your emotions. Instead of thinking about the lies that Satan has led you to think about, think about the eternal truths we have in God’s promises. First, analyze the storm, crisis or problem that lead you to experience the thought you have in your mind. Understand that you can never change the storms or crises that come into your life. You can only change the ways you interpret those experiences, so that you can experience different emotions. Your biggest problem lies in wanting to control what only God can control. That is the source of the greatest stress you experience in your lives.
  4. Thank God for what He has given you. Instead of complaining about what you have lost in the midst of the storm, decide to trust what you have. Make a list of all the things that God has given you. You will discover that you always have more things to be thankful for compared to things you think you do not have.
  5. Cast all your anxiety on God because He cares for you.
    The end of the story about the storm you experience today will be defined by how you decide to interpret your storm. The disciples thought of death and pain, while Jesus thought of peace and security because His Father was at His side. In the end, Jesus rises and calms the storm. Today, you can get up like Jesus did and calm the storm, because your God is at your side as a powerful giant and nothing can harm you without His permission.