Quarantine as Caretaker

When the pandemic began last year, there was no way to predict how profoundly it would affect all of us. This episode touches on some of the most difficult moments of a quarantined reality as Sandra talks to her dear friend Andi Ashworth. Andi and her husband, producer Charlie Peacock, officially established Art House in Nashville in 1991. Art House was not only a recording studio for Charlie, but it served as a place for artists to find rest while recording. Andi’s role was to care for those who came through the Art House doors, as well as her own family who lived on the property. Since leaving Art House in 2015, Andi’s role as caregiver has changed a bit, and her resolve has been tested this past year as she desperately misses her children and grandchildren. Andi’s book Real Love for Real Life is a beautiful example of developing patience as we give care for those we love.

Steadfast is a production of Sandra McCracken in partnership with Christianity Today.
Produced by Sandra McCracken, Leslie Eiler Thompson
Written by Leslie Eiler Thompson
Edited by Andrew Osenga
Mastered by Mike Cosper
Music by Sandra McCracken

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Despite the Pandemic, U.S. Suicide Rates Declined Significantly in 2020

Despite the Pandemic, U.S. Suicide Rates Declined Significantly in 2020

The Associated Press reported on Wednesday that the U.S. saw its most significant decline in suicides in forty years last year during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The six percent decline is expected to change as death certificates are still being filed. As a result of long-term stress and trauma, there has been a concern that the coronavirus might spark more suicides; however, officials project a significant decline will persist.

While data does not indicate why the suicide rate plummeted, some experts attributed it to the trends observed at the beginning of previous national disasters and conflicts.

Dr. Christine Moutier, chief medical officer of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, told the Associated Press, “There’s a heroism phase in every disaster period, where we’re banding together and expressing lots of messages of support that we’re in this together. You saw that, at least in the early months of the pandemic.”

Further, Dr. Moutier suggested the expansion of telehealth services and resources may have also impacted the decline of suicides.

The national suicide rate in the U.S. gradually increased from 2000 until 2018, ultimately reaching its greatest number since 1941. Experts suggest that the national rate fell slightly in 2019 due to expanded suicide prevention programs and more accessibility to mental health screenings.

In contrast, some concern grew that the falling trend would stop when the coronavirus infiltrated the U.S. population and triggered a national shutdown of schools and businesses requiring millions of Americans to stay home, with many living alone. Furthermore, surveys indicated depression, anxiety, and drug and alcohol use were more prevalent across the country, with an 85 percent increase in firearm purchases in March 2020.

Farida Ahmad of the CDC co-authored an exhaustive report about the remarkable 2020 decline of suicides in the Journal of American Medical Association.

According to Ahmad’s report, suicide dropped from the 10th to 11th leading cause of death in the U.S. last year, while at least 345,000 Americans succumbed to the coronavirus, making it the nation’s number 3 killer last year.

The CDC has not presented an official summary of the 2020 suicide stats yet. Dr. Moutier told The AP she is eager to study the findings, hoping the decline is the start of a continuing trend. However, she is also concerned negative trends could develop later as many people fall into deep grief over people and things lost during the pandemic.

“There’s sort of an evolution of mental health distress,” she said. “It’s possible we will see the whole mental health ramifications of this pandemic” later.

Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Fizkes

Crystal A Dixon is contributing writer at ChristianHeadlines.com, Devotableapp.com. Visit her blog at crystaladixon.com

Day 3: The Walking Christians

Long before the pandemic, the church in Venezuela was experiencing a complex and difficult situation.

The worsening economic crisis has led more than 5 million people to flee the country, where food and medicine are hard to come by and inflation is skyrocketing. Electricity availability and internet access are also spotty. According to mobile broadband speed and browsing statistics, Venezuela ranks 139th, above only Afghanistan and Palestine.

In a global pandemic, with 95 percent of public transportation unavailable, and gas inaccessible for many, how can the people be fed? How can they gather for Sunday services?

Yet the church has persevered. Pastors on the ground report an unexpected growth of new believers who have arrived tired and in need of a loving Father who brings peace, comfort, and rest for their hearts in the midst of their affliction. Although there is no transportation or internet, people are walking for hours in order to gather together and hear the Word of God.

Ways to Pray:

  1. Thank God for the spiritual transformation of the church in Venezuela, for the many who have turned from the prosperity gospel to the true gospel of grace
  2. For provision for the brothers and sisters who are experiencing hunger and hardship in the country, and the many who have fled to Colombia, Brazil, Chile, the Dominican Republic, and other countries
  3. For a miracle of renewal and peace in Venezuela, for God to soften the hearts of the authorities and bring many to the gospel

For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:17–18

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How Do I Think Wisely About Relocating My Family?

My husband recently took a job two hours from our home. Right now, due to the pandemic, he is able to work from home, and even in the future, the company has indicated he can be at least mostly remote. We’ve only lived in our community for a few years but we have a church we love, our son is enrolled in a great Christian school, and our preschool-aged daughters have friends and routines that are helping them flourish. Moving closer to his work seems like it would honor his employer and set us up for the future. But we hate to give up the community we have. How can we think about this with biblical wisdom?

You are wise to ask for biblical wisdom in this situation. Without a doubt, moving your family is one of the most stressful adjustments in life. It is a major decision that a couple must make together. There are critical things to consider, both spiritually and practically, as you proceed cautiously in this matter.

Without knowing all the details of your situation, I hope that before your husband decided to take this job, you discussed the possibility that at some point after the pandemic he’d have to be present to keep it. A decision to move closer to this job honors him, not just his employer. And because there’s some uncertainty in what “mostly remote” looks like, you may need to consider the future long before this becomes “not remote.” As your husband continues to work remotely, I encourage you to prepare for the next step by looking closely at your limited options.

Fork in the Road

You and your husband are at a crossroads; you have to make a decision sooner or later. It comes down to this: are both of you willing to relocate?

If not, then I am afraid there are only two options to consider: your husband needs to find a new job closer to home, or you need to be prepared to maintain two households.

Either of these options can be costly. It may have taken several months to find this job. Seeking employment while working full time is daunting. If he decides to keep the job, he may have to find living arrangements near his job site and commute home on weekends. That can work for some, but only for a season. It places unnecessary strain on your budget and on your marriage.

I don’t want to make light of this. I understand your reluctance to relocate. All of us fear the unknown. I cannot promise you that you will quickly and easily find another church, a good school for your children, and friends wherever you go. (I should mention, though, that if there are no gospel-centered churches in the area, you should not move.) There is no guarantee that everything will be just as good somewhere else as what you have now. I know it takes time to make new friends. In many places, especially outside of major metropolitan areas, there are fewer options to find schools and churches that are a great fit for your family.

I believe that, as a Christian, you trust God to provide all those things you and your family need, in the same manner he provided a new job opportunity for your husband.

What Does Scripture Say?

As a soldier on active duty in the U.S. Army for 20 years, I had a dozen assignments around the country and overseas. My wife and I had to trust God to see us through every move. It was a faith-building experience. My wife recently reminded me it usually took about a year to be settled.

We learned that God wants us to be his representatives and do his work at the right place at the right time. He knew whom we needed to serve, what we needed to do, where we needed to go, and when was the right time that he needed us to be there for his purposes.

Our experiences would be of little value to you if they were not supported by Scripture. How can you know you can trust God in this new assignment?

An open door doesn’t necessarily mean God wants us to walk through it. It may be a great opportunity, but the timing may not be right. And a closed door doesn’t mean we must stop knocking.

One of the first things we notice in Genesis is God’s sovereignty. He reigns over all creation. He is always in control. We also learn that he is merciful, loving, and faithful. We can wholly trust him to guide and provide for his children. He has good plans for us. God is present with you wherever you go.

Remember Joseph? He landed in many places he did not expect, but God had a plan and was with him everywhere he was sent. In Genesis 45:7–8, Joseph concludes that despite what his brothers did to him, it isn’t man who causes things to happen to us, but God. He alone is sovereign.

We also read from the prophet Isaiah that “we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand” (Isa. 64:8). God supernaturally works behind the scenes in the circumstances and hearts of his people to prepare them to do his work, and to mold them as he desires to fulfill his purposes.

Blessed if You Go, Blessed if You Don’t

If you are willing to take on this new adventure to relocate closer to your husband’s work to set him up for the future, I imagine you will find creative ways to minimize the adjustments for your family. If you haven’t already done so, perhaps you and your husband could take an overnight trip to the new town to check out what it has to offer. What you need may not exist in the town where he works, but there might be a better quality of life in a town, say, 30 minutes to an hour away.

I have learned that looking for work is always a spiritual journey for a Christian. I know without a doubt that God provides good work opportunities for those who seek him. Our response is to trustto embrace these opportunities as a gift, no matter what they might cost us at first, resting in the knowledge that we are right where God has placed us for his glory.

Looking for work is always a spiritual journey for a Christian.

I also know that in God’s grace, he often provides us the blessing of multiple choices. Too many Christians become stuck, trying to decipher “the center of God’s will” on non-moral issues, as if that were clearly laid out in Scripture. I have learned across the years that all we need to do is to look at the choices laid out before us, pray for God’s wisdom, and make a decision.

An open door does not necessarily mean God wants us to walk through it now. It may be a great opportunity, but the timing An open door doesn’t necessarily mean God wants us to walk through it. It may be a great opportunity, but the timing may not be right. And a closed door doesn’t mean we must stop knocking. Persistence sometimes pays off (Luke 11:5–10; 18:1–8).

Whether you decide to move now, later, or not at all, God will be with you. You are not cursed but blessed by the One who promises to work all things together for good, for those who love him and are called according to his purpose (Rom. 8:28).

Editors’ note: 

TGC’s “Thorns & Thistles” column seeks to apply wisdom with practical advice about faith, work, and economics. If you have a question on how to think about and practice your work in a way that honors God, let us know at [email protected].