THE ORIGINAL STRESS RELIEVER
I live in an area wracked with hurricanes and floods. After living here for eighteen years, I have gotten used to it. When we are told to evacuate, I often roll my eyes, look at my husband and say, "Do we really have to leave?" And then we leave. We leave for a week, maybe longer, depending on the effects of the storm, return to the damage, if any, and clean up the mess. So when the pandemic lock down took effect at the end of March, it didn't seem like too big of a deal. We'll wait it out like any other storm. We'll come out and clean up the mess. There's only one problem. The mess doesn't seem to be going away. One of the least discussed side effects of this pandemic is the emotional toll it is taking. The elderly of course are suffering tremendously. But the emotional toll on all of us cannot be discounted. According to Rebecca Clay in her article, "Covid-19 and Suicide" published by the American Psychology Association, it may take some time before we know the full extent that the pandemic is having on our emotional health. This doesn't just effect one age group, either. I was deeply saddened to hear of teens who took their lives soon after the lock down began, but it isn't just teens. Adults, some working in high profile jobs or exhausted from hospital shifts, have also taken their lives.
We are living in anxiety ridden times. Let me first say, that without Jesus, there is no hope. He is the foundation for everything. Even when we are not in a pandemic, we live in a world driven by anxiety. I see this constantly in my students at the university where I teach. They don't need a pandemic to be anxious. I believe anxiety is one of Satan's most effective tools in keeping disorder in the world. Christians are not immune to this. While we should be able to live peacefully, resting in God's grace, we instead embrace the anxiety of the world. It is so hard not to.
This may sound like a flippant solution to a major problem, but I have seen first hand the effects of having an animal around for calming anxiety. God has given us beautiful creatures to help calm us during anxious times. I often think about Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, but it isn't the garden I think about. It's the animals, and it's Adam and Eve with those animals. Can you imagine what it must have been like to walk freely with all the animals before sin entered? I know in the jungles of Asia and Africa, people find a way to do this today, but it isn't the same. There is still an element of fear and intimidation. In the Garden of Eden, God paraded those animals in front of Adam, and said, Go ahead, give them a name. What an imagination God gave Adam! Lions, and tigers, and bears (oh, my!) and elephants, and zebras, and monkeys. Oh the list just goes on and on. As Adam and Eve walked among those animals, think of the joy they shared. No stress there! I think of heaven this way, where we will once again freely walk with the animals without fear.
We already had one dog when we brought Bentley into our home, but Bentley had a special job: to help ease the anxiety our daughter faced. The power of a pet of any kind is unbelievable. The irony of Bentley is he gets anxious, too, and his little body will shake. But that doesn't seem to make anyone else more anxious. Instead, we work to calm him, and he calms us. Taking our eyes off our problems and thinking of Bentley calms our own anxiety. People with pets have less stress, less anxiety, and feel more needed than those who do not have pets. We tried other healing remedies before getting Bentley, but Bentley was a little miracle that changed everything. Do you have a miracle of a pet? I would love to know about your precious creature! Leave a comment and tell me.
Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals. Genesis 2:19-20