You’ve read it in memes all over the socials. I’ve said it myself, to myself and others in varying ways too, ever since the Coronavirus was first discovered:
We need to just trust God.
And it’s true. But…how do we actually do this when our worlds flip inside out? When our homes turn into schools, our schedules go out the window and our mail needs to be sanitized? When our rhythms of work and errands and are replaced with instructions by world health leaders? When our commutes and pauses at red lights are exchanged with home stay and extended pauses for hand-washing? When our churches are live streamed and our connection is limited to those under our roofs or those on screens?
We are not a people (even Jesus followers are on a journey in learning how to do this) naturally bent toward trusting God…so how do we actually practice trusting God when we find ourselves in a place we have never been before?
We will need more than this one-liner and all the inspirational memes.
Let me be clear though: we do not need something more than God. No, He is enough. But we need to know why we can trust Him and how to actually do it in our real-time unfolding drama called life.
By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.
Abraham wasn’t dull of hearing, or bad at understanding geography, or poor at discerning God’s will for his life (something we Christians today can get all tied in knots over). Unlike other times when God gave Abraham specific instructions, in this case God just hadn’t told him anything, except to go out.
In other words, “Abraham, just trust me.”
Abraham’s response was one of quick and simple obedience. A “Yes, Lord.” Just like we teach our kids that obedience is doing what we say the first time without fussing, with a good attitude, “Yes, Ma’am. Yes, Sir.”
And we want to obey God, we want to just trust Him, but we feel so many things right now, have so many questions and concerns, and can find ourselves circling like dogs chasing their tails with no idea how to do this in these unprecedented times.
I write this because I have asked this and need this, for myself! There’s so much I cannot do right now, I can forget that there are wonderful things I CAN do. And in my search for some clear steps I can take I found these 5 to be especially helpful. See, I believe with all my heart we will all get through this season. But what is not certain is whether we will grow through this season. This, is up to us. I don’t want to just survive this season. I have a thin but real hope I can actually still thrive amidst this chaos, and I believe you can too.
So here you go. My personally-tested 5 small steps we can take starting now to thrive, and not just survive, our chaotic COVID-19 global pandemic times. Consider one, a few, or all of them, as you continue on the journey with Jesus friends. I go with you in these steps, still curiously looking for the way of delight with Jesus’ easy yoke and light burden (Matthew 11), here too!
Ready to step out?
- We can grieve our losses
I’m not going to get too deep into the psychology of what we are all experiencing right now, but we are all experiencing trauma on some level because of this pandemic. This means we are experiencing loss, of many kinds probably, and it dishonors our souls and God to ignore them and act like they don’t matter to us. It is uncomfortable though, even painful, to feel the sadness of those losses, and none of us enjoy feeling sad (well, our Eeyore’s don’t mind it as much, and could help us embrace these feelings a bit more kindly perhaps). It took me 10 days into the shut down before I realized my odd symptoms were signs of grief. Once I owned the grief, I began moving through it with Jesus and Jonathan. I cried over losses finally, and shared tears with our little girl’s teacher. The losses matter, and I found relief on the other side.
God gives us so many reasons to trust Him, especially when we are vulnerable, hurt, grieving, or don’t know where we are going or how things will be when we get there. The primary reason is because of His very nature: love. His heart toward us, as His created humanity made in His own image, redeemed by His first-born Son, is as a doting Father over His beloved children. When we grieve, He empathizes with us. He doesn’t whip us for a lack of faith, or come down on us with shame because we are weak and sad. No! Listen to His heart in this passage where He describes Jesus’ character before He is sent:
Behold my servant, whom I uphold,Isaiah 42:1-3 (emphasis added)
my chosen, in whom my soul delights;
I have put my Spirit upon him;
he will bring forth justice to the nations.
He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice,
or make it heard in the street;
a bruised reed he will not break,
and a faintly burning wick he will not quench
Do you feel like a bruised reed, like a fragile plant withering? Jesus will not break you. He is God’s Servant Son who will handle your heart gently and nurture you until you are thriving once again. Is your faith a faint wick, just smoke and no flame? Do not be ashamed, He will not extinguish you! Our Good Shepherd instead will gently blow over your faith, fanning it once again. God is not rough with our hearts in the way we may imagine.
Here are some other resources as you move toward grieving your losses: both this blog article and the podcast linked at the end called COVID-19 Help for Grief.
- We can pray alone and with others
It sounds simple, I know. But it’s an action step, it’s something we can do and are told to do because if we don’t we have stagnant waters in our soul which are fertile ground for worries to grow. Worry is a good emotion for taking action. No, we can’t fix everything, but there are usually things we can do to help our situations! What that looks like may not be clear, but prayer is one way to get out what is inside our heads, turn it into requests to God in the form of prayer, and engage in dialogue with the Creator of the Universe who knows COVID-19 better than the World Health Organization and the days of your life and the needs of your home.
And we don’t need fanning flames of faith to step into prayer. Yes, we can use the Jesus prayer (Matthew 6:9-13) if it can be prayed in a way that helps you engage with Him, but if not…that’s ok too. We can do like the Psalmist and pray through our weakness, express our emotions honestly, and work out what is inside of us with Jesus as we pray. Look at how David started out with God in Psalm 10, and see if you can relate to him:
Why, O Lord, do you stand far away?Psalm 10:1
Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?
Maybe you feel like God is far away from you right now, hiding Himself in our COVID-19 pandemic. If you struggle at all with abandonment issues (like I’ve had to work through), this is an easy time to trigger those wounds. Prayer is a safe place for your real emotions, a channel for you to release your fears, your worries, your real-life needs like paying bills and homeschooling schedule, and asking God to help you. Ask Him, friend. Ask Him for every single thing you need and are worried about, this is what you CAN do and it may be the spark for fanning that faith.
- We can renew our minds with truth
As we grieve our losses, and as we pray, we are going to surface beliefs we are holding that are likely not formed by God’s Word. The father of lies is subtle in his deception of God’s children, has been from Day 1. He won’t come at us with obvious schemes of evil because most followers of Jesus will reject those. Instead he weaves subtle lies that trip us up and cause our feet to slip just a bit, then a bit more, then a bit more until we are deep in a pit wondering, “How did I get here?” This is one reason we are charged in Scripture so many times to stay alert, and guard our hearts! We may not recognize the belief we are standing on as a lie at first if we have a thin understanding of Scripture, but that is no problem for God’s Spirit who can lead us into all truth, always aligning with God’s Word! (John 16:13) We can hold what we are believing up and pray for God to show us what truth actually is so we can become people grounded on truth building lives on wisdom!
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.Romans 12:1-2
This is a simple method I learned from my friend Barb Raveling for renewing my mind with truth, called Truth Journaling. I’ll give you a brief example of something that has many worried and will direct you to her for more examples and insight!
Truth Journal Entry
Situation: COVID-19 may cause me/us to lose our jobs.
Belief: (1) I’m going to lose my job. (2) How will we ever pay the bills if I/we lose our jobs? (3) We’ll end up losing the house. (4) The kids will be devastated.
Truth: (1) This is possible. (2) We could make money in other ways. I might be able to find another job. If not, I could take in some kids to babysit. There may also be the option of unemployment. We might not be able to make as much as we do now, but we can still make enough to help with the bills. (3) We can probably still keep the house if we have different jobs or different incomes, but if we do end up losing the house God will have allowed it to happen. We could also put it up for sale and buy a smaller house, and that may not be a bad thing. (4) Cutting down on our lifestyle will definitely affect the kids, but it may not be all that bad. It could even end up being good for their character. I can be an example to them as I show by the way I live my life that God is more important than money.
The bottom-line is we are still being shaped by what we focus on. Maybe even more during times of chaos! What we pay the majority of our attention to (on the socials, on the news, on television…) is going to shape us and form us into a certain kind of person. So we can take action and move a step toward thriving if we accept Paul’s challenge to us and the citizens of Philippi:
…whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.Philippians 4:8-9
- We can talk and listen to another person
We may be living in more isolated times, but we are not made for isolation! We need companionship and community, and while it may be found under your roof, it may not! And even if you do have one person to share real life with in your home, that will not be enough for either of you for long. So whether it is through an online tool or App like Zoom, Marco Polo, messenger, or email, texting, FaceTime, WhatsApp, or goodness me: a phone call or letter — seek connection with wise people who can listen, empathize with how you are feeling and be there for you with wisdom and truth when it’s time to move forward. Also, practice listening to them, too! They have emotional needs just like you, and limited access for experiencing meaningful human connection. This is a time to serve and love each other, and listening is one of the most impactful ways we can show love. And for the love of all our mental health, talk about things that also make you LAUGH! I am so thankful for shows, stories, and sisters who can make me laugh when times are tough!
- Last, but certainly not least: We can BE EXTRA GRACIOUS toward ourselves and others
Again, we have never been here before. We don’t know this path, ourselves or our people, here in this place. It is all new for everyone, and we are at very different places in our journey with Jesus, our journey with fear, loss, grief, emotional health and communication. This is not going to be easy, or pretty at times, and we are going to hurt ourselves and others with words and actions (*Disclaimer: there is never an excuse for justifying abuse, so if you are experiencing abuse please seek help somewhere immediately!)
If you feel overwhelmed and need a break, take one if you can. One of the signs of grief I overlooked was tiredness. I felt so tired, and didn’t see any justification in my physical output for the day. I started making space to just lay on the couch with my daughter and watch cartoons a bit more than usual, so we could both snuggle and rest a little extra in our new homeschool rhythm. We have both benefitted from the permission to rest, and not be so productive and OK this season, and I pray with all my heart you will benefit from at least one of these steps, too.
**For those of you who have a tendency to turn to food for emotional reasons, LIKE ME, you are likely feeling all kinds of temptations to cope and bury yourself in all the french fries (again, LIKE ME!). To serve myself and anyone else who is interested, I’m hosting a private Facebook group 30-day Bible study that starts April 6th to help us in this very struggle! So send me a message on the socials or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to be pulled in friend!