It looks like we will be spending more time staying home in an effort to keep the coronavirus from spreading. Many people are not handling the isolation very well. They long for their lives to get back to normal. They miss the social interaction that was such an important part of their daily lives. Some are experiencing mental and emotional stress that could take a heavy toll on them if they don’t respond to these circumstances in a positive way.
As usual, the Bible has some great advice for us. In 2 Timothy 4, Paul is in prison and feeling lonely. He is sure that his life will soon come to an end. Even though he holds on to his great faith in Jesus Christ, it seems that he is dealing with discouragement. What he does to combat this can be an example for any of us who may be feeling discouraged as well.
First, Paul acknowledges the truth about the situation. He is in prison, for no other reason than proclaiming the gospel. Some people have abandoned him, and one has done him a great deal of harm. He is cold and lonely and in need of some help. The first step in dealing with discouragement is to rightly assess the situation. There is nothing to be gained by sugar-coating what is happening around you. Don’t spend time whining and complaining, but it can be healthy to be truthful about your circumstances.
Then Paul asks for help. He wants Timothy to come and visit as soon as he can, and he asks him to bring Mark with him. He needs help for his ministry. In addition, and perhaps more importantly, he needs some company.
Third, we see the importance of maintaining a forgiving spirit. Paul doesn’t hold anything against those who deserted him in his time of need (v.16). Like Jesus did on the cross, he offered forgiveness to those who had wronged him. It has been said that withholding forgiveness is like taking poison and waiting for your enemy to die! Offering forgiveness can have great healing power for the mind and soul.
In addition, we see that Paul makes some practical requests. He wants Timothy to bring his cloak, a heavy garment that he would need in that cold prison. He also asks him to bring his reading material, possibly sections of Scripture. Who among us has not received comfort on a cold winter day by wrapping up in a warm garment and enjoying a good, uplifting book? Simple creature comforts go a long way to revive our spirits.
Finally, Paul remembers that the Lord faithfully stood at his side and gave him strength (v.17). Others had deserted him, but Jesus promises to never leave or forsake us—“…And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20).
There you have some good biblical advice on how to stay mentally healthy in trying times. Stay safe. Stay strong. And God bless!