Have you ever been afraid of tomatoes? I mean, other than after watching the movie “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes”?

Today, you might not like tomatoes, but chances are you’re not afraid of them. But things were different in the 1700s.

During that period in history, a large percentage of Europeans feared the lowly tomato.

Scholars tell us that the fruit was nicknamed the “poison apple” because aristocrats often got sick and died after eating them. But it had nothing to do with the tomatoes, and everything to do with the plates they were eaten off.

Back then, wealthy Europeans often used pewter plates, which were high in lead content. Because tomatoes are so high in acidity, when eaten off pewter plates, the fruit would leach lead from the plate, resulting in people getting sick and dying from lead poisoning. No one made the connection between the plate and the poison at the time; instead, the tomato was blamed.

This is week four of our Metal Health series at Cornerstone. Over the past four weeks, we looked into the Bible to see what we could learn about depression, narcissism and renewing our minds.

In a recent survey conducted by CTV News, the question was asked: How would you describe your mental health since the start of the pandemic?

Out of 3600 respondents:

11% said that their mental health is actually better than before.               

50% said that their mental health is about the same.                     

39% said that their mental health is worse than before.                 

This week I want to look at an issue that seems to be at the forefront of many of the mental health issues coming out of these COVID times, and that is anxiety. And we are going to park here for a while, next week we are looking at worry and the week after that we’ll be looking at fear.

According to data released by Amazon on the most highlighted passage in Kindle eBooks, the most popular passage highlighted in the Bibles one concerning reducing anxiety, and finding trust in God.

The specific passage is found in Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV). Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

But what about when you actually have something to be anxious over?

Let’s go back to the story that was read for us earlier.

Most Christians have a favourite scripture. Through the years I have heard numerous people tell me theirs, and of course I was both here and at our Windgate Campus when people wrote their favourite scriptures on the concrete before the carpet was laid. And right now, maybe you are thinking of the scripture that means so much to you.

Most Christians have a favourite scripture. Through the years I have heard numerous people tell me theirs, and of course I was both here and at our Windgate Campus when people wrote their favourite scriptures on the concrete before the carpet was laid. And right now, maybe you are thinking of the scripture that means so much to you.

Weirdly enough, mine is Matthew 8:26 in the King James Version where it reads, Matthew 8:26 And he saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? Then he arose and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm. Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm.

And some of you know the back story, for those who don’t, In the spring of 1979 my best friend decided that I should become a Christ Follower. He had taken that step nine months earlier, and now he decided that I should do the same.

He put into play everything he had learned at Bible College about leading some someone to Jesus.

He told me the difference that Jesus had made in his life. He led me through the plan of salvation, and he asked me if I was ready to accept Christ as saviour and Lord of my life and I said “Nope.”

I’m sure that wasn’t the answer that Reg was looking for. After all, after all, he had shown me all the scriptures the book had said to show me. He asked me all the questions the book had said to ask me, and now all that remained was to lead me through the prayer that was spelled out in the book. But I had said no.

And in his frustration Reg deviated from his script and blurted out, “What are you so afraid of?” And I said “, “Nothing, it’s just that. . .”.” and I listed out a whole list of reasons why I couldn’t or wouldn’t become a Christ Follower at that particular point in my life.

And over the next several months we would revisit that conversation, and I would say no, and Reg would ask, “What are you so afraid of?” And I would insist that I wasn’t afraid of anything.

And then one night Reg convinced me to go to church with him, and so I did. After all, what could it hurt?

During the service, I reached down and picked up the Bible in the back of the pew and flipped it open randomly, I didn’t know that there were different types of bibles and I certainly didn’t know that some bibles had the words of Christ in red, all I knew was when I opened that Bible that night in Red letters in the middle of the page was Matthew 8:26 And he saith unto them, “Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith?”

And for the rest of that service, I struggled with that question. “Why are ye fearful?” I was afraid I wasn’t good enough and wouldn’t be able to fulfil the expectations I had of what a Christian should do and shouldn’t do. I was afraid of losing control. I was afraid that I wouldn’t have any more fun.

And that night I realized that part of following was trusting. And so I did. On September 2, 1979, at First Wesleyan Church in Saint John, I decided to follow Jesus, and I’ve never regretted it.

So, what can we learn from the story in Matthew? I recently read an article published by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, entitled, Top Ten COVID-19 Anxiety Reduction Strategies, and it begins with these words: “During this time of national crisis, we must manage two things simultaneously: 1) Protect ourselves from the Coronavirus, and 2) Protect ourselves from anxiety. .”

Today, we are going to try to incorporate some of those strategies with the lessons that we learn from this story.

Matthew 8:24 Suddenly, a fierce storm struck the lake, with waves breaking into the boat. But Jesus was sleeping.

One of the recommendations that was listed in the ADAA article was Focus on Present Odds:

In this case, we know that what they feared was real. And that isn’t always the case.

This wasn’t an imaginary fear or an irrational fear. These guys understood that the boat being in the water was fine, but water being in the boat was a reason for panic.

I know people who would have been afraid to get in the boat, because they either fear boats or fear water. That is an irrational fear. And sometimes the line is blurred.

When I was growing up, my mother was afraid of spiders and my father was afraid of snakes. So, I grew up, being afraid of both spiders and snakes. I have pictures of Angela holding tarantulas and snakes, and I just shake my head. She is always gracious and offers to let me hold her new friends, you’d think after 39 years she would have figured what my response was going to be, before she asked. She knew that I was going to break out in song and sing, ““I don’t like Spider and Snakes, and that ain’t what it takes to love me.”.”

And in Nova Scotia, that fear of spiders and snakes is irrational. There are no poisonous spiders or snakes in Nova Scotia.

And you might be thinking, well, they may not be poisonous, but they bite. Seriously? There are a lot of things that bite that I’m not afraid of.

Dogs bite, cats bite, and little kids bite. And while this may affect how you view me; I once bit a kitten back after it bit me, and I once bit a kid after they bit me. And neither one of them bit me again. And don’t even think about reporting me, I’m pretty sure that the statute of limitations on both events has expired.

Now most of you know that we lived in Australia for four years. Australia is home to the most poisonous snakes and most poisonous spiders in the world. While we were there, I was bit by a red back spider, look it up.

And I frequently travel to Africa, and something bit me on my first trip to West Africa, and I thought I was going to lose my arm, and they have some really poisonous snakes there as well.

So, while a fear of spiders and snakes might be irrational in the Maritimes, it is completely rational in Australia and Africa.

So for these men. In an open boat, that was never designed to have 13 men in it, it was a fishing boat, not a ferry, in a storm in the middle of the sea of Galilee at night. They had good reason to be afraid.

And there are reasons to have anxiety over covid.

Angela and I have friends who have had covid and been really sick. We’ve known people who have died with and of COVID, it’s no joke. But on the other hand, it’s not Ebola or the bubonic plague, and keeping a proper perspective can help reduce your anxiety

And while COVID can be horrible, for the majority of people who contract it, the symptoms are mild or non-existent. On Saturday we had 148 new cases, for a total of 713 active cases, with 30 of those in the hospital and 5 in ICU. And that’s nothing to sneeze at, but to put it in perspective that was .07% of the population.

In our lives, there are things that we need to fear, things that can harm us or kill us, and God has put a sense of self-preservation in each of us, well in most of us.

But there are times that we begin to obsess and fret over things that probably won’t happen to us, and if they do, they won’t be nearly as dire as we think they will be.

If you stop and think about the things that cause you anxiety in a rational manner, what are the chances that it will happen to you? Have you robbed yourself of opportunities and experiences because you have overestimated the risk involved?

Living life is a risk, everything we do involves a risk to some degree, that’s life.

The next piece of advice from the ADAA is, Do Not Engage with Worry Basically they are telling us to not give in to worry instead do the things we are supposed to do to minimize the risk.

In the story that Matthew tells us we don’t read what the disciples were doing in response to the storm, we have to assume, and yes, I know what happens when we assume. We have to assume that being professional fishermen, they were doing what had to be done to keep their vessel afloat.

They had no doubt trimmed their sails and turned head into the wind, they were probably taking turns bailing and maybe they had thrown any unnecessary cargo overboard.

As we deal with COVID, we can be obsessed with worrying and hide in our rooms or we can take the necessary precautions to keep ourselves safe. We can wear our masks, not gather in large groups, and make sure we wash our hands.

And no, wearing a mask and washing your hands won’t stop the pandemic. It’s like wearing a raincoat or carrying an umbrella, they won’t stop the rain, but they will help you stay dry. Will they guarantee that you won’t get wet? No, but on the other hand you have a much better chance of staying dry then if you don’t wear a raincoat and use your umbrella.

And you have a much better chance of avoiding covid if you do what they ask you to do.

And I know that the science keeps changing, that’s the nature of science. As they review and learn, they change their recommendations. If science didn’t change, instead of preaching on mental health we’d, we’d be talking about asylums and lobotomies

The professionals tell us that much of anxiety is rooted in a lack of confidence in our ability to handle challenges. Listen up, each one of us can do what they are asking, and we can do it well. It’s not rocket surgery.

And the next recommendation goes hand in hand with the last one, Do Not Go Beyond CDC Guidelines:

Again, there is a blank area here about what the apostles did or didn’t do. But we have to assume that because it’s not mentioned, there were probably things they didn’t do.

They probably didn’t cut a hole in the bottom of their boat to let the water run out. They obviously hadn’t drawn lots to determine who they should throw overboard. They had done all they could do, but they didn’t get ridiculous.

If you are scrubbing your hands until they are raw, if you are spraying everything that comes into your house with alcohol and demanding that everyone in the house change outside before they come in, and you never leave your home, you’re probably overdoing it.

Doing those things are anxiety’s guidelines, not the CDCs.

Dean Blumberg, MD, chief of pediatric infectious diseases at UC Davis Children’s Hospital, said this about catching Covid-19 from inanimate surfaces: “You’d need a unique sequence of events. First, someone would need to get a large enough amount of the virus on a surface to cause infection. Then, the virus would need to survive long enough for you to touch that surface and get some on your hands. Then, without washing your hands, you’d have to touch your eyes, nose, or mouth.”.

I told someone a while ago that the response to the virus from those who attend Cornerstone range from those who wear masks while they are alone in their cars or homes to those who are licking doorknobs. And no, I don’t really know of people who are doing either of those.

So do the right things, but be careful not to stress over not doing enough.

Let’s go back to the story, Matthew 8:25 The disciples went and woke him (Jesus) up, shouting, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”

Seek Out Professional Help I don’t know at what point the Apostles realized that they weren’t alone, but it was an important discovery.

I would suspect that if the apostles had asked for help earlier in the story, that they would have received help. Nowhere in the Gospels do we see Jesus withholding help from those who asked.

I think that the guys were just working on the assumption that they had everything under control. That there were like little kids who insist they can do it themselves, even when they can’t. can’t. Besides, at least four of them were professional sailors. Why would they ask a carpenter for help?

But they did, and that made all the difference.

You don’t have to go through your anxiety alone, regardless of whether it is COVID related, or tied into something else.

There are people you can talk to, perhaps a friend, a family doctor or your pastor, and if they can’t provide the help you need, then there are mental health professionals. Counsellors, psychologists, and psychiatrists. And let’s never negate the power of prayer. Don’t be like the apostles who tried on their own before they asked Jesus for help.

The takeaway is you don’t have to deal with your anxiety by yourself. And maybe just sharing the burden will make it easier to carry. Listen to the wisdom of Solomon from Ecclesiastes 4:9–1211 Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.

Let’s keep going with the story, Matthew 8:26–27 Jesus responded, ““Why are you afraid? You have so little faith” Then he got up and rebuked the wind and waves, and suddenly there was a great calm. The disciples were amazed. ““Who is this man?”?” they asked. ““Even the winds and waves obey him!”!”

The next thing we are told by the ADAA, Preserve Some Sense of Normalcy We don’t know what Jesus did after he calmed the storm, but I know what I would do if my nap had been interrupted, I go back to sleep.

But we read that the guys got into a conversation. They were no longer bailing, no longer stressing over whether the boat was going to sink or not. They were talking about what they seen and experienced. They were doing what was expected, what was normal.

But we read that the guys got into a conversation. They were no longer bailing, no longer stressing over whether the boat was going to sink or not. They were talking about what they seen and experienced. They were doing what was expected, what was normal.

There are many things that we can’t do because of COVID right now. But there are still a lot of things we can do.

Seek the normalcy in your life and do it. Going for a walk, enjoying a sunset, spending time with the ones you love. Instead of focusing on what you can’t do, focus on the normal things you can do?

Going along with that is the ADAA suggestion to Focus on Being Productive and New Ways of Enjoying Life Regardless of how much of a control freak you might be, you have no control over what is happening nationally or even provincially with the COVID crisis. And so instead of stressing over what we can’t control, we need to focus on what we can control, and that is our response to the crisis.

And added to that is Engage in Stress Reduction Activities I love being close to the water, and even more being on the water. I think that probably the rest of their trip to the other side the apostles were unwinding and relaxing as they sailed along.

I don’t know what a stress reducing activity might be for you, for me it’s reading fiction.

For some people it might be gardening, or exercise, or painting or doing puzzles. Take some time to focus on what you are grateful for and what you can be thankful for.

Now there a few more suggestions from the article that I haven’t been able to shoehorn into the scripture. Hey at least I’m honest about it.

Media Distancing Something we never spoke about a year ago was social distancing. We do things now to avoid getting too close to folks we don’t know that would have been considered rude in 2019. But we’ve been told that social distancing is one of the things we need to do to help stop the spread of the virus.

In order to stop the spread of anxiety, you might have to distance yourself from the media. If you are always checking the latest infection numbers, you might not be doing yourself any favours.

Seven years ago, Angela and I chose to stop watching the news every day. It was one of the best decisions we ever made. Any vital information you need to know, you will find out. And you won’t be stressing over stuff you have no control over.

Hold on to on to your seats, I know you will find this surprising, but not everything in the media is accurate or even true. Last month there was a new story in the paper about one of our larger churches. Half the stuff in the article was wrong.

If I had written a high school paper with that many mistakes it would have got a “D” or worse. And yet the majority of readers would have taken it as gospel. And social media is even worse.

Next suggestion is Do Not React to Physical Symptoms

If you cough, it doesn’t mean that you have COVID, and the same holds true when other people cough.

I’ve spent the majority of my adult life sniffling, sneezing, and coughing. One of the things that teach doctors is “When you hear hoofs, think horse, not zebra.”

So, unless you have multiple symptoms, you probably have allergies or a post-nasal drip or a cold.

If you feel you should get tested, by all means get tested, but don’t be obsessing over symptoms. All that does is reinforce your worries and increase your anxiety.

And finally, the article recommends Be Kind to Yourself and Others and Have Faith

It’s normal to feel anxious and worried during something like this, so don’t beat yourself up too much. And don’t judge what others are doing or not doing. I decided very early on that I was not going to spend my time being the COVID police. Sometimes people forget, sometimes they make honest mistakes and sometimes they’re just jerks. I’m not going to get my knickers in a knot over what I see others doing or not doing.

At the end of the day, having faith or imagining the worst is a choice. Which one will you choose?

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