How to develop resiliency in times of uncertainty

Dealing with our emotions and turning to Scripture during a pandemic

July 23, 2020

In the months that followed the outbreak of COVID-19 in our country and around the world, I noticed a pattern of mild to moderate panic in my clients and those of the counselors-in-training I supervise. As we witnessed in news feeds around the nation, store shelves were stripped of essentials like toilet paper and canned goods; the line at my local Trader Joes was historically around the block as people packed carts and herded toward registers (long before the strict six feet apart markers that exist everywhere now), naively planning for what would surely be just two weeks of stay-at-home orders. 

The strain of mental stress 

Our clients expressed fear over infections, job furloughs, the emotional and physical toll of healthcare work, surviving a household of bored quarantined kids/students, dual work-from-home spouses, and isolation from family and friends. However, the adrenaline that comes from a new challenge provided a sense of optimism and creativity that resulted in goofy quarantine memes flooding social media, a collection of humorous publicized Zoom-catastrophes, and an outbreak of parents dancing on TikTok. My clients embraced the experience of sheltering-at-home with innovation and creativity. As time passed, new emotions emerged in our weekly virtual sessions. Fatigue, distress, helplessness, and uncertainty rose to the top as clients struggled in session to find ongoing hope in the monotony of daily life, coupled with the underlying fear of the unknown. 

Mental stress was a constant. 

Months later we stand at the cusp of a country reclosing after reopening. As of June 2020, there were over two million cases of COVID-19 diagnosed in the U.S. and over 120,000 deaths (Centers for Disease Control, 2020). It seems everyone at least knows someone that tested positive, or tragically died from the disease. Our communities of color have been disproportionately impacted in identified cases and death rates (Centers for Disease Control, 2020). The World Health Organization, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration, and the Census Bureau have all released information suggesting that we’re looking at a mental health crisis in our nation triggered by the global pandemic. Rates of depression, anxiety, suicide, and addiction are reportedly on the rise (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration, 2020). 

If there is one consistency that seems to be present in our response to this pandemic, it’s that of uncertainty. We still have few answers in a world trying to navigate a return to some semblance of normalcy. 

Fortunately, or unfortunately, our brain is wired to take in information; to reflect on, analyze, and interpret that information in ways that inform our experiences (past and present) as well as plan for and predict the outcomes of our future. While I can’t pretend to even guess the intricacies of how God designed the human brain, I also cannot help but think this is partially why he desired to protect us from the depth of knowledge that came from eating the fruit in the Garden so long ago (Gen. 2:17). Now, we crave information. We want answers, confidence, and assurances in order to navigate the world successfully and with full participation. The uncertainties of COVID-19 present anything but the clarity we crave. Yet, research on the intolerance of uncertainty and its contribution to the growth and development of mood and anxiety-related disorders is on the rise (Oglesby & Schmidt, 2017). 

Where do we find hope? 

Scripture offers us a clear path toward navigating a world of unknowns if we’re willing to embrace the discomfort of choosing to act in ways that our emotions initially might seem to contradict. God designed us to have emotions and exemplified the role and impact of emotions through the earthly example of Jesus Christ. He is described as feeling angry (Mark 3:4-5), sad (John 11:35; Luke 19:41), full of joy (John 15:10-11), and expressing righteous zeal (John 2:17). His actions and words also suggest feelings of compassion, empathy, and frustration, among others. 

Just like our brain seeks to find confirmation of outcomes through our evaluation of previous experiences, our mind also seeks to motivate actions we perceive as consistent with the emotions we experience. Joy leads to celebration, contentment, and engagement. Sadness leads to crying, reaching out for physical or present comfort, withdrawal, or isolation. Anger can lead to lashing out verbally, physical aggression, a raised voice, or stonewalling others. Fear can lead to running away, acting defensively, or refusing to make decisions or engage in action. 

To navigate a present and post-COVID-19 world will require embracing the discomfort of an uncertain world on the foundation of the certainties we find in the truth of God’s Word. It’s a dance between acknowledging and validating our very real emotions while choosing to act according to our core values. The act of validation can play a significant role in bringing comfort, peace, and empowerment in the presence of challenging emotions such as anxiety, fear, and depression. While validation alone does not typically eliminate the effectaffect of emotional distress, taking the posture that such emotions should not exist in persons of faith often leads to greater experiences of shame and guilt, which then fuel the underlying encounters of anxiety, fear, or depression even more.

Once we validate the emotions we are experiencing, we can then consider the actions we want to pursue in the midst of them. Much like James calls us to consider joy (James 1:2) in the midst of hardships, we are empowered to choose the way we respond in our current circumstances. Philippians 4:6-7 challenges us to practice gratitude in the midst of anxiety. Interestingly, research has supported the impact of gratitude on post-traumatic growth and finding meaning in loss (Kim & Bae, 2019). We are also called to be present in community and to be a comfort to others as God comforts us (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). Altruism and social support can also be a significant factor in reducing fear and the impact of trauma in the aftermath of a stressful life event. 

It is important to take the time to process your experiences in the uncertainty of our current world. Acknowledging and validating the emotions that accompany our uncertainty is a key element of resiliency. As we move forward in a world of unknowns, we can lean on the truth of Scripture to navigate the discomfort and embrace actions that will foster growth and transformation in our mental health and well-being.  


Center for Disease Control. (2020). Mental Health: Household Pulse Survey. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/covid19/pulse/mental-health.htm

Center for Disease Control. (2020). Cases I the U.S. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/cases-updates/cases-in-us.html

Writix. (2022). Health Equity Considerations and Racial and Ethnic Minority Groups. Retrieved from https://writix.co.uk/blog/health-equity-considerations-and-racial-and-ethnic-minority-groups

Grupe, D. W., & Nitschke, J. B. (2013). Uncertainty and anticipation in anxiety: an integrated neurobiological and psychological perspective. Nature reviews. Neuroscience14(7), 488–501. https://doi.org/10.1038/nrn3524

Kim, E., & Bae, S. (2019). Gratitude Moderates the Mediating Effect of Deliberate Rumination on the Relationship Between Intrusive Rumination and Post-traumatic Growth. Frontiers in psychology10, 2665. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.02665

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2020). SAMHSA seeks applications for $40 million emergency COVID-19 grants for suicide prevention. Retrieved from https://www.samhsa.gov/newsroom/press-announcements/202005131138

Deb Gorton

Dr. Deb Gorton is a clinical psychologist who works as a change agent for individuals, organizations, and emerging leaders, helping them refine, embrace, and thrive in their purpose. Through partnership, she inspires others to build bridges between the head and the heart and ignites the courage necessary to make the … Read More

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24