Six weeks ago I was in my favorite fabric store chatting with one of the managers about the Chinese students I teach English to through an online platform and how COVID-19 was impacting their lives.
At this point in time, it was still that virus over there and not something that was directly affecting Americans. When I mentioned that I was stocking up on food and supplies, she asked if I really thought the virus was coming here. I said it was already infecting Americans, we just didn't realize it yet. We talked about how important it was to have at least two weeks of supplies on hand and joked about what we would do if the fabric store was forced to close (actually sew the fabric we’ve already bought!).
Honestly, that conversation feels like it took place a lifetime ago in a different world. I felt like I was ahead of the curve and prepared for what was to come. In a lot of ways, that was true. I had stocked our pantry, bought toilet paper (but not too much), filled our freezer with two weeks worth of chicken and beef, and bought hand sanitizer for our family to carry.
What I didn’t anticipate were the mental, emotional and spiritual struggles that I would experience as a result of this pandemic and subsequent lockdown. I, like most people, have felt a gamut of emotions over the past few weeks. Loneliness, fear, anxiety, helplessness, anger and despair have become familiar friends of late.
My husband has been furloughed from his job. How will we pay our bills? What happens if, despite our best efforts, one of us contracts the virus? What will this shutdown mean for our community, state, nation and the world? What will we be left with when all of this is over? When will this be over? Will this ever be over?
In the last few days, I have heard a still small voice trying to get my attention above all of the noise. It whispers, “There I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: they do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?” (Luke 12:11-26).
In the midst of this global pandemic, it has become abundantly clear how little control we have over the world in which we live. I can read news article, after news article, after blog post about the virus, our government’s response, and what is happening on the frontlines, but I have no control over any of those things. It is important to remain informed, but when the information begins to create internal chaos, it is time to shift our focus.
The Apostle Paul tells us in Philippians 4:8 to think on, “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, what is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, [excellent or praiseworthy].”
Instead of focusing on the worry, the what-ifs, all that we have lost and might yet to lose, let’s shift our gaze to what we have gained. Yes, I am sad that all of our outside activities have been canceled, but I am thankful for the extra time we have been able to spend together as a family.
I am disappointed that we are not able to meet as a church on Sunday, but I am thankful for stronger and more regular connections with my church family throughout the week. How wonderful it is to live in an age where technology can bring closer together while we are forced to remain physically apart!
Most importantly, we can choose to shift our attention from the ever-changing world around us to the Lord who is the same yesterday, today and forever. When we build our lives on Him, the solid rock, we will not be shaken by the sinking sands of this world.
Growing up, this prayer was hanging on my grandmother’s wall, “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and wisdom to know the difference.” Our current circumstances have brought new meaning and clarity to those words. May God grant each one of us serenity, courage and wisdom during these difficult times.