I don’t know if you’ve heard, but there’s a virus going around. In fact, experts call it a pandemic. But I’m not talking about the COVID-19 (coronavirus) crisis–I’m referring to the virus of worry.

Of course, legitimate concern over COVID-19 is fueling our apprehension these days. Yet our tendency to get mired in anxiety goes far beyond this medical crisis. One psychologist called worry “one of the most urgent problems of our day.”

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When people reach out to us for help, they have an agenda. So often, that agenda has to do with a troubling behavior—they unleash anger destructively, can be paralyzed by fear, are addicted to a substance, or they sin sexually. More often than not, they know their choices and experiences are less than God’s good purposes for them; that God sees their behavior as sin or doubt-fueled suffering, and they feel guilt, shame, or burden, and want relief. And we want it for them. This is where we can go so desperately wrong.

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I could see their lips moving, but the words were muffled. I leaned in, trying harder to hear what they were saying, even though I knew exactly what was being said. It felt like I was in one of those out-of-body experiences you see in the movies—the scene where everything around the main character slows down, and everyone around him fades. The character’s internal dialogue starts as he tries to make sense of the unfolding situation.

For me, it was a very surreal and familiar situation. I was, yet again, get- ting bullied. This time my tormentors were getting creative with their insults. “What’s with your face, Mayfield? Did you run into a meat grinder?” or “Who dressed you today… your mommy?”

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Sometimes “I’m sorry” is a selfish thing to say.

Sounds strange, doesn’t it? After all, repentance is a cornerstone of the Christian walk, right? Sadly, I can assure you that it is indeed quite possible to spout humble-sounding words of apology more in self-protection than in real repentance aimed at real reconciliation.

The basic dynamic of phony repentance works like this: I say I’m sorry in an effort to make the “offended” person feel better about me or to make me feel better about me. Whereas Scripture calls us to seek forgiveness for sins that have harmed others, self-serving apologies aim to deflect someone’s possible disappointment in us or to soothe our own inner discomfort.

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On the morning of the infamous march, a drill instructor spoke to the soldiers. … “If you want to quit, look at the top of the mountain.” He went on, “But if you want to make it through, then just find the closest tree and tell yourself, ‘I’m going to make it to that next tree and then reevaluate.’ And then when you get to that tree, do the same thing again, finding the next closest tree. If you’ll do that, tree by tree, soon enough you’ll find yourself at the top of the mountain.” (Lord, Help Me Endure One More Day)

There’s a difference between surviving and true resilience. Life isn’t a casual stroll up a hill where you might get a few blisters. It’s a flat-out trudge in the cold and low oxygen through hardship and uncertainty and loss. We lose jobs, we lose our homes, we lose loved ones. We lose confidence, and we might even lose faith.

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A few years ago, I wrote a small group study looking at ten of the one another verses in Scripture. I was struck by the repeated commands to love one another by encouraging, praying, bearing with, and comforting one another (to name a few). In the Creation account, the Bible points to the clear interdependence for which we were created (Gen. 2:18). That’s why the current social isolation only adds to the profound problems associated with loneliness. Feeling alone and disconnected is increasingly prevalent in our world today. It’s not surprising then that even secular social scientists talked about an epidemic of loneliness in the U.S. even before the COVID-19 pandemic. The forced social isolation in the last several months has only exasperated the consequences of an increasingly disconnected society.

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To become a warrior that’s fully engaged in the fight, we need both truth and love—and truth is sometimes hard to hear. We don’t grow or thrive without this powerful combination. Our tendency in today’s society is to build our self-esteem by pouring out praises; accentuating the positive, overlooking faults and imperfections. Although this is often done in a sincere effort, it produces an out of balance situation.

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I don’t know about you, but there have been a few times my slightly-introverted husband would rather have his teeth pulled without Novocain than sit for hours engaging in small talk with strangers.  Now don’t get me wrong, most people would never know this about him because he is such a natural conversationalist. He’s the king of chitchat, always ready with an entertaining story to tell. He’s always the one person at the table of eight who can draw the entire group into an interesting conversation, never leaving anyone out.  He truly does enjoy it, but sometimes it seems to exhaust him.

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I’ve never been very good at long-distance relationships. I often cringe when my phone rings, no matter who is calling. I can take days, weeks, or even months to return a call or even a text from a friend I haven’t spoken to in a while. And often, when I finally bring myself to reach out, I feel angst throughout the conversation, even if it is a pleasant one.

Based on these reactions, you might think, “She must not enjoy interacting with people or think relational engagement is that important.

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