By Anne Peterson, Crosswalk.com
Push, power through, and collapse. That’s what I often did when things got hard. Until something happened to take the air out of my tires. Something called COVID-19. No, I didn’t contract the virus, though I had fears from time to time that I would catch it. Just knowing the virus is out there has changed me as I’m sure it’s changed you. So how do we deal with all of this? What can we do in times like these?
Eating Didn’t Help
In the past when stressed, I have turned to food, pretty certain I’m not the only one. Food is accessible. And some foods are even named comfort foods. And let’s not even bring up chocolate, a friend to many. Growing up in a dysfunctional family, I learned how food can numb your feelings. But unhealthy solutions are not long-term ones. Eating didn’t help me forget about the virus. I was stuffing my emotions instead of dealing with them, like trying to hold a beach ball underwater. It doesn’t work. Besides that, it takes much longer to lose weight than it does to gain it, and it’s hard work. Maybe I’d try TV instead.
Watching TV Didn’t Help
I believed the lie that more information would help me feel less stress. Have you believed that as well? At first, I tried soaking up as much info into my brain as possible. But that didn’t work either. I found it impossible to relax at night with so much stirring around in my mind. I also found it confusing because no two sources said the same thing. I know our God is not a God of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33). I also know the enemy of our soul, Satan, loves chaos, confusion, and basically anything that gets our eyes off the Lord.
I also tried staying away from the news and instead visited with Andy of Mayberry, where their problems seemed so small compared to what we’re facing today. Sometimes switching over to The Little House on the Prairie. And while they did suffer hardships, most of them would be worked out by the time the program ended. TV was always just a temporary reprieve, and when the TV set was off, I found nothing in our world had changed at all. Characters on TV still got together, without masks. They hugged. As of late, even the programs mirror what we face. That’s why I keep visiting the older ones.
Being on the Computer Didn’t Help
Since I’m a writer, I tried writing as well. After all, writing is my “go to,” whenever I struggled with life issues. But I soon found my words were not flowing out of my mind, but instead they stubbornly refused to come out. After staring at the blank screen for a while, my mouse would magically move over to a game of 3D solitaire, where for a little while I could put cards in order and then watch them dance all over the screen when I won. Another escape that didn’t really work.
Or I’d go to Facebook and post a poetic meme, meant to encourage others to trust God. But after seeing harsh posts others made to each other when certain things were brought us, I found myself getting off the computer quickly.
Are Words Enough?
You know it’s one thing to write about trusting God. You post verses you know are true. You try to encourage those who are concerned about their loved ones, or fearful about this time in their lives. Words seemed inadequate for those who have lost a loved one to this virus. Some who never got to be there as their loved one slipped away. Some of the very things made me wonder if they are enough. Are we meeting the needs of those who are hurting right now?
Don’t get me wrong, I know that God’s Word is true. And personally, God has brought our family through so many hardships. There were the losses of loved ones, financial difficulties, struggles in relationships. God is faithful. He’s always been there, meeting our every need. I think it’s best illustrated in the sweet story of a little girl who wanted to recite the 23rd Psalm and she said: “The Lord is my shepherd and that’s all I want.”
I remember the words of the hymn In Times Like These, by Ruth Caye:
In times like these, you need a Savior, in times like these you need an anchor;
be very sure, be very sure, your anchor holds and grips the Solid Rock!
We all need the solid rock. We need to exercise our faith which comes by hearing the Word of God (Romans 10:17).
Read God’s Word
It wasn’t until I sat down with my Bible that I found hope. It was being reminded that we have access to God’s throne room where we can pour out our hearts to God. God sees how difficult this time is in our lives is right now. He invites us to share our feelings, to lean on him wholly. I admit to God how weary I am. How it seems like it’s been one LONG day since COVID-19 appeared. I tell God how disheartening the news is. I know he already knows, but it feels good to tell him, knowing God not only hears me, but he looks forward to my time with him. Not one word falls on deaf ears. I know God cares because he tells us to cast our cares on him (2 Peter 5:7).
Spending time with God helps me get my bearings. Not just once, but every time I show up and I’m honest with him. God knows about my feelings, whether or not I verbalize them. God watched me jump from one thing to another, knowing those things would not satisfy me. He watched and waited because God is patient and long-suffering (Psalm 86:15).
People are scared, and many don’t know God personally. When I think of how scary it would be for someone who doesn’t know that God is sovereign, I pray for all of us in this world. It’s important we extend grace to one another. We need to be understanding instead of judging what others are doing or not doing. All of us struggle with fear at times. Like we did when we found out our daughter-in-law, Heather, contracted COVID-19. Everything changes when it hits close to home. Fear camps outside your door, refusing to leave.
I’m learning what it looks like to extend grace to myself, too. It means giving myself the right to do things differently in this changing world. I used to be a person who plowed through assignments, thriving in that busy environment. Now after grocery shopping online, or sanitizing things, I realize my strength diminishes quickly. 2020 has taken a lot of our strength, but God continues to be our power source. Paul realized when he was weak, then he would be strong because God was his strength (2 Corinthians 12:9-11).
Learn to Rest
Instead of belittling myself, I am learning to rest. I understand more clearly, it’s not how productive I am that gives me worth. I have worth and value because, like you, I was made in the image of God. And whenever I need it, I can obtain grace by going to God, who doesn’t change (James 1:17). God tells us to come to him when we are weak and heavy burdened, and he promises to give us rest (Matthew 11:28). I want to rest in the Lord and rest is available no matter what is going on around us.
When we were told our granddaughter Livie had Trisomy 18, which is terminal, I prayed God would still let her live. She made it past her birth, despite what doctors predicted. And we had 14 1/2 months with her. While Livie’s dad struggled inside, he wanted to rest in God. Listen to his song, Rest in You, and see if his words resonate with you. He (Nathan Peterson), tried to rest when things were dark, reminding himself that God’s hand was over him, no matter what. Getting to that place of rest is not easy. Maybe that’s why it says we labor to enter into that rest (Hebrews 4:11). But rest is possible with God’s help.
God sees our weariness, and he tells us…
I Will be Your Strength
My child I see you’re weary
as you move from day to day.
You try to comprehend my thoughts
and understand my ways.
Just trust that I am faithful,
that I will be your strength,
regardless of how hard your trial,
regardless of its length.
Anne Peterson© 2020
A Prayer for Us during These Times
Father, we need you. Our world is fearful. We sit with our many questions and no answers. We see our world suffer, friends and family who need your peace. Lord, we are weary. We ask you for strength. Please protect our families. Heal those who have contracted the virus. Comfort those who have lost loved ones. Thank you, Lord, that you are sovereign. Your hand is over us. Nothing happens to us without your knowledge. Father, help us. We pray this, in your Son’s precious and Holy name. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Photo credit: ©GettyImages/fizkes
Anne Peterson is a regular contributor to Crosswalk. Anne is a poet, speaker, published author of 16 books, including her latest book, Always There: Finding God's Comfort Through Loss. Anne has also written and published another memoir, Broken: A story of abuse, survival, and hope. Sign up for Anne’s newsletter at www.annepeterson.com and receive a free eBook by clicking the tab. Or connect with her on Facebook.