Spikes and Surges: Distress

“When everything seems to be against you, remember the plane takes off against the wind, not with it.” – Henry Ford

All At the Same Time

One of the stories that warmed my heart the past few months was of Robert and Janice Beecham from Texas, one of the hotspots of the resurgence of COVID-19. They have been married for 46 years and were high school sweethearts. But this spring, they experience a constellation of circumstances that would have caused insurmountable distress to any person.

As winter gave way to spring, Robert and Janice were going through COVID-19, cancer, and chemotherapy at the same time. They came through it alive, well, and cancer-free. Knowing that they were blessed because many did not make it, they gave this testimony. “It would have been impossible to make it with all the odds against you without God, and He has been our help, all these many years,” Robert said. In all that distress, they shared some crucial essentials to getting through turmoil, which is an accurate word association for distress.

Distress, which is defined as “extreme sorrow, anxiety, or pain,” aptly describes what many people have been experiencing in different ways throughout this year. Whether the distress is health, economic, relational, racial, and as of this writing climatic, as hurricane Isaias prepares to make landfall and wildfires rage in California, we are all in the same storm, albeit in different boats.  From a survey conducted, the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health reported in June that psychological distress more than tripled this spring as opposed to spring 2018. This has especially surged in young adults between 18-29, going from 3.7% in 2018 to 24% in April 2020. Distress agitates our minds, derails our hopes, and can leave our souls hagridden. Nevertheless, the story of Robert and Janice reminds us that distress needs not have the last word over our future. And it begins with God being your help, as Robert said. 

Find and Follow God

Since distress has a direct impact on our souls, God is best positioned to help because we originated from Him. There are many people today who are mad at God because of the distress they are experiencing. They ask the question, “Where is God in this pandemic?” And in failing to reconcile a good God with suffering, they shut the door on the only One Who can carry them through these times. In a recent New York Times article, Father James Martin pointed out, “I don’t know why people are dying, but I can follow the person who gives me a  pattern of life.” The person he is referring to is Jesus, the Son of God. 

This observation dovetails with Robert Beecham’s perspective that when the odds are against you, God is the constant help needed in the contrasts of life caused by distress. Imagine being on a dark road and suddenly seeing a light in the distance. What would you do? Most of us would immediately be drawn to the light and walk in its direction. I believe that Jesus is our guiding light in the darkness of our times today. This was true for Shemar Powell. Upset after the coronavirus shut down Morehouse College as he was starting his freshman year, he returned to Baltimore, his hometown, to begin his first semester online. He pointed to His Christian faith as “critical to weathering this extraordinarily challenging time.”  In Jesus, we find the light we need to keep going in the middle of distress. 

Find Reason to Continue

In relaying their story, Robert also mentioned that in 2014 and 2016, he suffered two strokes. Both times, he was hospitalized and missed their wedding anniversary. This year, hospitalized after testing positive for COV-19, he was motivated to be home for their anniversary. Having a reason to keep going can be a powerful motivator during times of distress. Besides wanting to be home for their anniversary, Janice’s phone calls while Robert was in hospital buoyed him to keep fighting. 

I must pause here and give condolence and comfort to anyone who has lost a loved one to COVID-19. I pray that you will keep going despite your painful loss and keep the memory of your loved one vivid by living life to the fullest. Furthermore, your reason to continue can be beefed up with friendships. 

Find Others to Propel You

While in hospital, Dr. Satyam Nayak, whom Robert referred to as “ attentive and caring” was instrumental in helping Robert. He didn’t see Robert as a patient but more so a person. And in a dark time, the two men forged a friendship that continues months after Robert won his battle with COVID-19.

Good friends are a dime in dozen. If you have the privilege of having them, lash yourself to them. Don’t take them for granted. Nurture them. Make substantial word and deed deposits into your relational accounts. In the time of distress, they may very well be the vital supplements you need when you feel like throwing in the towel. 

Final Thought: Distress is real in our world. But I believe it need not be the reason for us to resign ourselves to a life that is less than what we are capable of. In finding God, a reason to continue, and friends to propel you onward, distress can be the tool you use to become a better you. 

Keep on keeping on!

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