I’ve felt heavy with this blog post now for over a couple weeks now. I know so many people are struggling, and I want so much to be encouraging, to point to God, to help us all rally. I know I, along with many others, have been trying to put some positivity out there: We can do this! We’ve got this! We’re all in this together. We will be fine.
But what if we aren’t?
Every cancellation, every extension of the known, breaths fear into me. And I have to fight it. And at the end of last week, I couldn’t fight it anymore and it overtook me.
Instead of fighting it, I embraced the question and forced myself to consider what would happen if I wasn’t fine. If my loved ones weren’t fine. If life isn’t fine after this. And as I walked through those fears in my mind, I felt like the entire world was spinning out of control. I felt overwhelming sadness starting Wednesday evening through Friday.
I cried. A lot. I sat in a blanket on the couch with snacks for hours. And I never do that.
Among all those fears, I was coming face to face with one of my biggest ones: what if my faith is false? What if life has been too easy, and now that the rubber is hitting the road, it will crumble when I need it most? I’ve lived a privileged life – and that’s not to brag. Just as no one can help what tragedies befall them in this life, we likewise can’t help when beautiful and undeserved gifts come our way. I’ve always had a deep-seated fear that my faith has only been made possible because I’ve had a good life.
At the end of last week, my anxiety shoved me up against a wall, daring me to give up and give in to fear, to consider that if life wasn’t good anymore, would I still have believed in the goodness of God?
I gave up a little. I felt real fear – it felt like all control was wrenched from my hands. I thought about Gavin missing almost half of his kindergarten year. I thought about all the best parts of spring at school we’ll miss: field day, the kindergarten mother’s day tea, the
third grade art show and spring program. I thought about a whole spring season of soccer gone (it was going to be Gavin’s first year, and it’s Heidi’s favorite sport). I thought about Cody’s job, and how even though it’s fine now, what if the market crashes and his job is on the line? I thought about my parents, automatically labeled high risk because of their age. I thought about my healthcare friends who have no choice but to go to work, putting themselves and their families in very real danger. I thought about my sister’s youngest, who is missing out on her entire senior year. I thought about my friends and their kids who have asthma. I thought about the anxiety I feel every time I go to the grocery store. I thought about how now I walk away from people instead of towards them. I thought about how regardless of social distancing and all our efforts to stay safe, we still cannot see this invisible threat. We can’t begin to guess who it will impact and how.
I sat down to journal and pray and talk to God about this. When I did, all the truth I’ve read over the years…all the prayers, all the songs, all the convictions…came rushing back. I felt the sand clear from my feet, and I felt firm ground underneath me. It turns out God has prepared me for a time of crisis because the whole purpose of our faith is for such a time as this.
Faith is not for a charmed life. It’s not for a tragedy-free life. It’s not for looks, it’s not for kicks, it’s not for warm fuzzy feelings. It’s for times exactly like this: when we are out of control, when we are faced with suffering, when we fear we’ll be overcome, even when we are faced with death.
One night, I sat down with Cody, and together, we talked through worst-case scenarios. I
know this sounds morbid, but if you talk to therapists, it can actually be a really helpful tool and make you feel more prepared for what may be coming.
We actually discussed if we felt like God would be present if the worst happened: if one of us, or someone we loved, contracted the virus and passed away.
Cody looked right at me and said: “Isn’t that why we have faith? We’d be in the best place possible with Jesus, and I know God would take care of whoever was left behind.”
To acknowledge it took my breath away and also made me breathe a sigh of relief. I felt tears in my eyes. So there it was. Our faith was real and was in tact. We were prepared, in faith, for whatever may come.
Does that mean we still won’t freak out if someone gets sick? No. Does mean we still won’t have high anxiety some days? No. Does that mean we welcome tragedy and death? Absolutely not. But those things are a non-negotiable part of life, and to face them with comforting truths is is a beautiful gift and brings me immeasurable peace.
The foundations of the entire globe shifted in a matter of mere days. Businesses closed. Schedules emptied. The structure of life deteriorated before our eyes. Retirement accounts drained, livelihoods disappeared, and the foreseeable future became completely unknown…I’d say for the first time, but it’s always been unknown. We just trick ourselves into thinking we know what’s coming by making all of our well-intentioned plans. What always seemed to rock solid was simply laid out by something we can’t even see with the naked eye.
I think I wavered a bit because I was basing my foundation on all of that: on our school structure, on our job security, on our good health, on all the plans we made for ourselves this year, on milestones and accomplishments. But when I sat down with God, He reminded me my foundation was on Jesus alone and the principles of His kingdom: love and sacrifice, generosity, graciousness, justice, hard work, and peace.
He alone gives me the ability to pivot. He gives me the strength to ignore the fear. He gives me the wisdom to adapt to this new reality we all live in. He gives me the ingenuity I need to see what I can do for my community, whether it’s making masks, grocery shopping for my neighbors, making cards for isolated ICU patients, encouraging my kids’ teachers, and checking in with my healthcare friends. He gives me the compassion for those who are out of their minds with fear and panic because He knows their hearts better than I do. He gives me the discipline to focus on what I can control.
We can grieve the plans and memories we’ve lost, but we don’t have to stay there. We can adapt and make new ones. We can be sad about our loneliness, but we don’t have to stay there. We have so many tools to connect with others at our fingertips. We can consume all the articles and news and stats, but that’s won’t help or save us. We can hoard toilet paper and masks and things we don’t need, but that won’t take the fear away.
This quarantine will define us all, even and especially those of us in the church. It’s a good time to reconsider what our foundation is built on. Is it based on something that can be crushed and blown away with the wind? Or is it on something true, eternal, and benefits the world?
Learning and growth and change are key in this time. And to do that, we need wisdom and faith in God alone. I’m finding my faith is more solid than I ever thought, thanks to the Lord being faithful to His promises.
As we move into an unknown future, I can trust He will continue to do so.
24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” Matthew 7:24-27
19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21