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In a time when everything seems totally out of control and our security is being rocked, many of us are searching for something solid that we can stand on. Is there anything we truly have control over?

I believe that there definitely is! In the Hope Restored program, we talk a lot about having control over one’s own ESPM. These letters stand for our emotional, spiritual, physical and mental well-being. Why these four things? Because God says they are vitally important to him:

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind.” (Luke 10:27)

These four aspects of our being are represented in this passage. Learning to love God emotionally, spiritually, physically and mentally means intentionally giving him authority over every aspect of our lives and partnering with him to care for ourselves in all four of these areas.

Giving God authority 

Thus, the first part is giving him authority over each of these areas. As we surrender our lives entirely to him and his plans for us, we learn to live more freely and authentically. He says he will never leave us or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6). That doesn’t mean we will never get sick, face hardships, struggle, suffer or die.

It means we belong to him and he will be right by our sides no matter what we are going through.

There is such peace available to us when loving him and knowing his love for us is our top priority. Being able to release control over our well-being is so freeing. We are not in ultimate control over how our lives turn out. God is in control. 

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) 

The good referred to in this verse is our becoming like Jesus. This is our ultimate purpose. In becoming like Jesus, we share in his inheritance and glory. Nothing, including the physical, emotional and financial impacts of a global pandemic, can remove believers from God’s all-encompassing love (Romans 8:38-39).

As we come to believe and live this more and more on earth, we store up treasures in heaven that cannot be destroyed or stolen (Matthew 6:20). Never forget: heaven is coming, and it will wipe away all of our pain, fear and suffering. Better yet, we will finally get to experience the fullness of God’s immense love for us!

Caring for ourselves

The second part of loving God with all aspects of our lives is where our sense of control comes in. We are not simply sitting by and expecting God to take care of us. As adults, God expects us to partner with him to care for ourselves. Children rely on their parents or caregivers to do this. However, at some point in later adolescence, that full responsibility transfers from our caregivers to ourselves.

This responsibility remains with us for the rest of our lives – it does not shift to our spouses when we get married.

That is good news! If responsibility shifted to our spouses, we would once again not have control over our own well-being. Thankfully, that is not how God set it up. In fact, our ability to care for our own ESPM will determine how well we show up in our marriage.

The health of our marriage is a joint responsibility. Thus, the health of a marriage is determined by how well each member of that marriage is caring for themselves and bringing that “cared-up” version of themselves into their interactions with their spouse. 

“We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)

When we are caring for ourselves well, and regularly reminding ourselves that God loves us and is seeing us through all things, we are more able to love others around us well and freely.

“Okay,” you might say, “but how does this look practically, in these four aspects of our lives?”

Emotional

First, recognize that God gave us the gift of our emotions as important information. They are the window into our hearts and help us to see what is important to us.

The first step is accepting all emotions as morally neutral pieces of information. Though some emotions are uncomfortable, they are not wrong. Expressions of emotions can be destructive at times, but the emotions themselves are not. Accepting and seeking to understand, and at times soothe, our emotions is how we care for them.

Do not rush to soothing too quickly, though. Take time to be curious about them. Give them permission to be there and seek to understand the root of them. Then, learn to speak truth to yourself in a kind and gentle way. 

Spiritual

Loving the Lord and caring for ourselves spiritually is about understanding just how much we are loved by God. This includes learning about who he really is, and who he says we really are.

God is good and he cannot not be good.

Though we do not always (or often, in times like these) understand how he allows the pain and suffering of our world, our spiritual well-being depends on our choosing to believe with our will who God says he is in Scripture. We don’t have to understand to believe. He is far bigger than we can ever imagine.

The second part is choosing to believe who he says we are. Even when we don’t feel it, our identity is secure in what he says, not what we or others have spoken over us.

Finally, caring for our spiritual well-being is about building a deep personal relationship with the lover of our souls. We do this through practicing spiritual disciplines like reading the Bible, praying, meditating, practicing silence, fasting, etc. 

Physical

We do not have full control over our physical health, but we can partner with God and take care of his temple (1 Corinthians 6:19). We do this by feeding ourselves well, exercising, and staying away from the things that Scripture tells us are not good for our body.

When illness comes, we pray, take steps to care for our bodies in the ways we are instructed to by doctors and leaders, and we surrender the outcomes to God. He is ultimately in control over the number of days we live.

But remember, from God’s perspective (which is far more real than ours, by the way), because of what Jesus did by dying on the cross and rising from the dead, God’s children do not die, they come home. 

Mental

Caring for our mental well-being is about regularly engaging our minds in a variety of novel things. This could include learning new things, problem-solving, memorization, doing puzzles and exchanging ideas with others. The attitude of mental well-being is about curiosity and openness to see things differently. Rigidity and judgment are the antithesis of caring for our mental well-being.

Why this is important during a global pandemic

How is all of this helpful in the midst of a global pandemic that threatens our sense of control and stability on every level?

Instead of feasting on the moment-by-moment news that increases our sense of lack of control and fear, prioritize caring for your ESPM. Check in with the news if you need to, then look to what we can control and surrender the rest to God.

  1. Intentionally take some time listening to and understanding your emotions. Be compassionate and kind with yourself.
  2. Reconnect with God and explore his goodness and love for you.
  3. Eat well, exercise, physically distance from others while still connecting in other ways. Surrender your ultimate health to God.
  4. Keep your mind active and curious with things that bring you joy and fulfillment.

Remember: God is still on the throne and able to get us through this. Let him take care of global outcomes.


Tara Lalonde is a Registered Psychotherapist with the College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario. Tara has a PhD in professional counselling from Liberty University. Her dissertation explored the post-intensive success of the Hope Restored intensive program. She and her husband recently celebrated 15 years of marriage. She is currently working as a marriage therapist with Focus on the Family Canada's Hope Restored program. 

© 2020 Focus on the Family (Canada) Association. All rights reserved.

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