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Man arrested after two-week stay in stadium luxury suite: How COVID has taught me not to worry

Ryan Denison is the Senior Fellow for Theology at Denison Forum, where he contributes writing and research to many of the ministry’s productions.

He is in the final stages of earning his PhD in church history at BH Carroll Theological Institute after having earned his MDiv at Truett Seminary. Ryan has also taught at BH Carroll and Dallas Baptist University.

He and his wife, Candice, live in East Texas and have two children.

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Soccer stadium seats
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A homeless Florida man, Daniel Albert Neja, was recently arrested after spending over two weeks living in a luxury suite at a Tampa Bay soccer stadium.

The stadium usually plays host to the Tampa Bay Rowdies soccer club, but, due to the coronavirus, fans were not allowed to attend the games, making it possible for Neja to make a home undetected in the now vacant rooms. 

While he was eventually discovered by a stadium employee, he helped himself to roughly $1200 worth of food and merchandise before his arrest. 

As St. Petersburg police spokeswoman Yolanda Fernandez told reporters, “It’s very unusual and it’s the sort of thing that probably would only happen during Covid.” 

Only during COVID

“The sort of thing that probably would only happen during Covid” is a sentiment most of us are probably far too familiar with by this point in the pandemic. 

As such, there are times when all we can really do in response to the latest absurdity is shrug our shoulders and move on with life. 

Learning to do that, though, might just be one of the chief ways that God is working to redeem these times. 

If you’ve been in church for very long, chances are you’ve heard at least a few sermons or Bible study lessons about not worrying. They usually focus on passages like Christ’s command not to worry about tomorrow because tomorrow will worry about itself (Matthew 6:34) or Paul’s proclamation that God has not given us a spirit of fear (2 Timothy 1:7). 

And those are all important passages and lessons for us to remember. 

But, if you’re like me, just being told not to worry doesn’t help to stop the worry for very long. 

COVID, though, has helped drive that lesson home in a more lasting way. 

How to lose control

When every day is a reminder that so much of what goes on around us is truly beyond our control, we’re left with the choice to either accept that reality or slowly go insane. 

Accepting reality doesn’t mean, however, that we give up on trying to make a difference in the world around us. Rather, it frees us up to focus on what we can control and leave everything else to God.

As strange as it may sound, I really don’t worry about as many things now as I did this time last year, and COVID—or, more specifically, the lessons God has taught me through in this season—has a lot to do with that. 

So, the next time you look at your life and begin to feel overwhelmed with fear or worry, take a minute to step back and ask God to help you focus on what you can control. Then trust him with the rest. 

After all, this just might be the best opportunity you’ll have this side of heaven to learn that lesson well. 

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