– By Pastor Bartley Sawatsky
If there’s one thing that has struck me during this pandemic, it’s how it is affecting people so differently. In one part of the world, COVID-19 means piling bodies into military trucks for burial in an unfamiliar place, while for others it means playing games with family and binging on Netflix. Our experiences couldn’t be more diverse. The one thing that we can safely say we share is this moment. In some way or another, we are all in this thing together.
As a pastor, I’m not only a student of God’s Word—but of people. Part of my job is checking in on people and making sure they’re okay. It’s trying to help numerous individuals, all of whom are unique (and processing things very differently), apply the wisdom of God’s Word to their own situation. We pastors do the best we can with this task as we simultaneously plunge into the fog of our own feelings. We do well to maintain a posture of humility as we try to bring something of value to those who walk beside us.
So how are you doing? As you fumble around in your own fog, have you been able to identify what you are feeling? Are you taking note of the changes? Are you drilling down into that uneasiness you’re sensing and pinpointing the source? What discoveries are you making? Are you unearthing your coping mechanisms? If there’s anything good that this terrible virus could teach us, maybe it’s some healthy introspection.
Some of us are discovering our inability to be still. It may take the duration of this pandemic to bring our adrenaline levels down to normal. We like running hard because it keeps other thoughts and feelings at bay, and stoppages like this are not comfortable, much less welcome.
In a similar vein, some of us are discovering we’re addicted to productivity. We feel the need to keep producing, lest feelings of worthlessness start to creep in. We know that God made us to sustain a certain level of productivity, but we have a hard time just accepting this as a season of stopping, resting and being. Maija Kappler has a provocative article on this topic in HuffPost. Check it out at: https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/entry/coronavirus-productivity-mental-health_ca_5e80e5c7c5b6cb9dc1a22d88
Some of us are discovering just how bad we are at relationships. Our curtness and impatience become amplified by the unknown that looms over us. We struggle just to engage and be fully present with our children for half an hour. And couples are bending low under the weight of finance and isolation. (Every expert I’ve consulted expects a wave of new divorce filings at the end of this crisis. I hope they’re wrong.) There’s nothing like locking struggling couples in the same house for a few months to see if their marriage will sink or swim.
Some lovely souls who struggle with codependency could be in over their head too. Lost employment already has them feeling like they’re letting others down. But now they have to learn how to educate and entertain their own kids while providing three gourmet meals a day that no one even asked for. What’s worse, many codependents can’t confine their neuroticism to the home; it spills out on a grander scale as they wrestle with Global Compassion Fatigue, literally taking the weight of the world on their shoulders as if there was something they could do to fix it.
Some of us are seeing how deeply we crave the affirmation of others, which for the time being might be limited to social media.
Some of us are seeing how badly we need to control our environment.
Some of us are seeing just how much trust we place in our finances.
Some of us are seeing how resistant we are to authority. (Just stay home.)
Some of us are seeing our vices effortlessly re-emerge as our anxious souls look for comfort… alcohol, pornography or shopping.
Some of us have been shaken to realize that the world is so incredibly vulnerable. We may even be starting to see that our belief systems don’t provide the answers and peace that we need.
There are endless discussions that we could pursue in an attempt to bring biblical wisdom to each of these issues. But in the interest of brevity, let me wrap up this blog post by reminding us all, myself included, of a few things that apply to all of these struggles.
First, God is real and he’s in control. If you haven’t come to terms with this yet, I’m not sure how you will ever find the comfort you seek. If the universe is truly random and chaotic at its core, then no one is in control. And even if we find a vaccine that can prevent the next pandemic, we’d better get along with figuring out next how to prevent asteroids from hitting the earth or the sun from wearing out. Christian theology acknowledges that sometimes things will look out of control from our vantage point, but we have assurance that God still has his hands on the wheel and that his purposes will prevail. Relax.
Second, let’s not forget that God sees and knows what’s going on. And more than that, he sees and knows what’s going on in our troubled hearts. He has proven himself as the God who engages humankind and who participates in our suffering. Jesus demonstrated that God’s modus operandum for fixing the universe is relationship before resolution. He has promised to make everything right someday, but for now, he uses times of trouble to get us to trust him more and to draw us close to him. So let’s draw close.
Finally, we mustn’t forget that God loves us. That one, tiny piece of information is the solution for everything that ails us. Before we reach for our typical God-replacements during this crisis, let’s take a minute to remember that God loves us unconditionally. He loves us whether we’re performing or not, whether we’re producing or not, whether we suck at relationships or not. He loves us even though we’re control freaks, addicts, codependents and worriers. Let’s learn to rest in that love.
As far away as it seems right now, this pandemic will come to an end. The curve will eventually flatten, and life will return to some new form of normalcy. But before this learning curve flattens for all of us, let’s take away everything we can from this experience. Now is a perfect time to take assessment of our coping mechanisms and to learn to shift our dependence onto God.