Has your world been turned upside down lately? Mine has too! But, unlike any other time in recent history, so has everyone else’s. I don’t think anyone is exempt. As my husband likes to say, COVID-19 has “leveled the playing field.” We all have had to deal with plans being changed, the unknown, fear and disappointment.
We have had our share of disappointment here in Indonesia: saying goodbye to seven MAF families who returned to North America several months early; school being relegated to distance education; the HIS high school senior trip that this class has worked toward for four years is canceled; our own trips canceled; family members who were going to visit cannot; our plan for C.J to travel to Indonesia this summer seems to be slipping through our fingers.
How has COVID-19 changed your life at the present? I imagine you have faced your own set of disappointments. Although our stories may all be varied, some things are shared: stress, worry, loss, transition. How are we supposed to handle these things?
A few Sundays before we stopped meeting for church, a guest pastor from America shared with us from the book of Hebrews. As he explained the background of the book, he shared that, “when people are under pressure, they tend to go back to the old ways.” That’s what the Hebrews were trying to do because following Christ was not proving easy. They were tempted to return to Judaism rather than sticking with their new faith in Christ.
His insights made me wonder what my “old ways” were. What old patterns do I tend revert to when under pressure?
It has taken many years for God to make me aware of my “old ways”, but now I can see that when God allows circumstances into my life that I do not find to my liking, I can become like a little girl standing stiffly with her arms crossed, her bottom lip shoved out into an angry frown, her brow furrowed in disapproval and her back turned to God. But because this stance was internal, it took a long time for me to become aware of what I was actually doing.
I ended up feeling trapped in anxiety and depression many times over a twenty year span of my life before I was finally willing to do whatever it took to get out of those places and to stay out. What God has been patiently teaching me is to simply walk with Him through the discomfort of painful circumstances.
I am still practicing how to truly walk with Him, but He has taught me that first of all, I need to acknowledge the situation and how I am feeling about it. If I feel sad, I need to grieve. If I am angry, I need to admit it. I can be really good at stuffing my emotions. So instead of just trying to “stop” feeling anxious or uneasy or depressed, I first need to acknowledge those feelings to Him. That is a good place to begin to dialogue with God and ask Him to enter in to my emotions. And if despair and self-pity have seeped their way into my soul, I need to confess them and turn from them.
I also need to make a choice to turn toward God, not away from Him. I can picture that little girl inside of me turning around from her sullen stance, reaching up her hand to place it in His and saying, “OK, Lord, I don’t like what’s going on, but help me to face it with You and to walk through it with You because I really don’t like the alternative of where I will end up if I turn my back on You again.”
I am still learning this truth – that I can walk with God through anything. I am even more amazed that He WANTS to walk with me through my struggles. I would have given up on me a long time ago! But every time I truly bring my emotions and struggles to God, I am always amazed that He is willing to meet me where I’m at and help me through it. Instead of fighting the situation, I can ask “What do you want to teach me through this? How do you want to change me through this? Please do it, because I can’t do it alone.”
Years ago when my marriage was going through growing pains, a very wise older friend offered me this advice: “Linda, if you are able to communicate with your husband about the hard things, your marriage can survive anything. It’s when communication breaks down that you’re in trouble.” I just wanted to fix all the problems, but the key was being able to communicate about them together. I think it’s that way in our walk with God too. Instead of me wanting to just try and fix all of my problems or issues, it’s more about learning to bring them to God. Our relationship grows through communication, and I think more than anything God cares about His relationship with us.
What are the “old ways” that you are tempted to return to under pressure? If you are willing, take a few moments and ask the Lord to help you identify them. And then examine where you are at with God right now amidst the COVID-19 craziness. Are you already walking with Him? Or disconnected from Him? Or even standing with your back turned toward Him? He longs to help you through these times. Reach up your hand and ask Him to walk through it with you – together.
“But now, thus says the LORD, your Creator, O Jacob, And He who formed you, O Israel, ‘Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine!
‘When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, Nor will the flame burn you.
‘For I am the LORD your God, The Holy One of Israel, your Savior.’”Isaiah 43:1-3a