The world around us has been consumed with the COVID-19 pandemic. It seems like everyone is an expert on the subject, mostly with information (or misinformation) gleaned from social media. Regardless of your thoughts on the subject, one thing is certain – there is no standard COVID story.
It hits everyone differently and some not at all, at least to this point. For me, it was a difficult few weeks, but I bounced back quickly. For others, like my friend and co-author Michael Stover, it just doesn’t seem to want to let go. Medical professionals have begun calling those COVID “Long Haulers.”
While there seems to be no real rhyme or reason to why some shake it off and others have serious lingering symptoms, there are some ideas that have been kicked around. Obviously, medical professionals believe that COVID symptoms are lessened when we have the vaccine.
Most medical personnel are also of the opinion that once you have it, the faster you can be treated for it, the less likely you are to have long-term issues. Of course, one of the other things that seems to be a tell on who will become a long hauler, or even die from the disease, is previous morbidities or underlying chronic diseases.
Restoration and COVID-19
Certainly, I’m sure you’re glad to know the pastor has researched COVID; but what does that have to do with restorative ministry? It has been my experience that failure and restoration is much like COVID. Some that fail get the help they need and find their footing in restoration pretty quickly. Others seem to never recover, remaining distant from God and church for years afterward.
After some initial conversation, you can almost predict who will benefit from restorative ministry and those who will probably be sidelined for years, if not for the rest of their lives – and it has a great deal in common with the COVID predictors.
A Lack of Healthy Spiritual Disciplines
Just as people are likely to have less symptoms if they have been vaccinated, they are likely to find spiritual health more quickly if they already have well-established spiritual disciplines. One of the ways you avoid spiritual failure is to have a robust and healthy prayer life, church relationships, and commitment to Bible reading. Even with those things in place, we know it is possible for a “brother to be overtaken in a fault.” However, a disciplined spiritual life is easier to regain if you have a long commitment to doing those things before the fault.
A Dearth of Restoration Resources
Likewise, restorative ministry, like COVID treatment, works best when it is accessed early in the process. Just as you don’t want pneumonia and other complications to set up in your body before getting treatment, you don’t want anger, despair, bitterness, and hopelessness to consume you spiritually before you seek help. The root of bitterness is particularly difficult to get over once it has established itself.
A History of Hidden Spiritual Illnesses
Finally, like COVID is more dangerous to those who are already sick, spiritual failure is more often fatal to relationships and ministry when the person has a long history of spiritual illness and has tried to keep it hidden and “under control” rather than deal with it.
Men who have a closet porn addiction; women who are addicted to attention; ministers with large egos; co-dependent pastors – all of these are more likely to have long-term issues because they have not developed a safe way and a safe place to repent and be held accountable. If you have already learned that process, restoration is easier.
Helping Spiritually Defeated Long-Haulers
All of us know those who just can’t seem to get back up on their feet. Perhaps they are long-haulers, and you can best help them by being honest with them and inviting them into the process of restoration. If you need help on where to start, you can find lots of resources in our book and you are welcome to contact either of us from this website.