Dr Brian Harpell

In this COVID-19 season we are walking through, anxiety is at a high level. Uncertainty is always a source of anxiety. And there is so much we don’t know.

Anxiety spreads the way a virus spreads. It’s passed on person to person. And it's highly contagious.

Given the call for social distancing and stay at home orders, it can feel like we are having to deal with all the stress and anxiety alone. Isolation compounds our anxiety.

I am spending time these days in the New Testament book of Philippians. One of the reasons I was drawn to this book is that its author, the Apostle Paul, wrote this letter to Christians living in Philippi when he was in the middle of social distancing, under order to not move about. He wrote this letter while incarcerated in Rome, waiting for four years to have his case heard by the emperor Nero.

What is amazing about this letter, is its positive and encouraging tone, especially given the circumstances the Apostle Paul found himself in.  

After introducing himself and the recipients of the letter, Paul writes: “I thank my God every time I remember you.  In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.”  (Philippians 1:3-5)

The first thing he communicates is that he is praying for them. His focus is not on himself and his situation, but on them. During times of great stress and anxiety, it’s a good thing to think about others. The most unhappy people I have ever met are focused on themselves.


When circumstances get challenging, have you noticed that there is a tendency to pray more?  I see in the news where governors and mayors are calling on people to pray. I know that I am praying more these days.

Prayer is a great response to the virus of anxiety.  1 Peter 5:7 counsels us to “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” So, if you are overwhelmed by anxiety, pray—cast your anxiety towards God!

But I want you to note that Paul, in his prayer for them, didn’t first ASK God for something. The first thing he did in his prayer was AFFIRM what God had already given them, and thank God. Just like the Apostle Paul, we need to stop panicking and take a moment to think about what God has already provided for us.

                                                     THINKING LEADS TO THANKING!   

As the Apostle Paul thought about the Christians living in Philippi, what he affirms and what he thanks God for is their partnership with him in the gospel ministry from the first day until the present day. The original Greek word Paul uses for “partnership” is koinonia, which translates to “fellowship” or “communion.”

What he’s thankful for is the connection they enjoy in the great mission of Jesus. Though separated by miles and the confinement of the Apostle, their fellowship, communion, partnership remained intact. Apparently, we can have real connection, even though socially disconnected. But it takes effort.

This thought of their partnership must have been an encouragement to Paul, even as he attempted to encourage them by the thought. He is affirming God’s gift of a team, and thanking God for the team that continued in their partnership in sharing the Gospel. Here’s another principle for dealing with overwhelming anxiety:


We are more vulnerable when isolated than when we are in community. We are better together, especially when facing tough times!

So, how do we put these words into practice? Here are a couple of suggestions”

  • If you are feeling overwhelmed right now, do not isolate and keep your feelings to yourself. Reach out to one of the members of your team, and ask: “Would you keep me in your prayers? It is hard for me right now and your prayers would mean much.”
  • Think of some of the people you are connected to. Call, email or text one of them and say, “I was thinking about you today, and I thanked God for you.” If you could be specific about why you are thankful for them it would be even more impactful.

Would love to hear how you do with these. Write me at