It was the final weeks of 2019 when I made a plan for 2020. Part of that plan included the launch of the Relentless Podcast, whereby I’d release a new audio and video episode every other week throughout the year. I recorded all the content and then I scheduled the posts. Hallelujah, I was ahead of the game.
Then, by early March, the plans I’d so carefully crafted were overturned by a global pandemic and a virus called COVID. In the span of days, trauma left its mark on the world. And the prior peace and ignorance bliss of 2019 disappeared in the face of 2020.
The last several weeks have been difficult; I know you know this. Churches turned virtual. Parents who never wanted to homeschool had to. Restaurants closed, and stores ran out of necessities. Families became homebound, each member longing for a break, while those without families longed for someone to talk to. The fragile and sick turned fearful and isolated. The healthy fretted about getting sick. Furloughs, layoffs, and job insecurity ran rampant. And at a time when we need relationships most of all, six-foot social-distance walls keep us apart.
Overnight, everything familiar became unfamiliar. And we’ve been trying to find our footing ever since.
That is why, today, I want to pretend you and I are sitting in the same living room, legs tucked underneath us on the sofa and the sun warming us through the window. I want to imagine we’re close enough to touch, close enough to see creases of worry and smile lines.
Close enough to remind each other we’re not alone. And we’ll get through this together.
I’ve struggled to know what to write these past weeks. What do you say when it feels the whole world has turned upside down on itself? Not only am I navigating schedule changes and my children’s insecurity, but I’m also wrestling with my own. I’ve spent the majority of the last ten years becoming a student of suffering. I didn’t ask for the education, often prayed to escape it. And the current realities have triggered memories of the prior nightmare.
Even so, I cannot deny the rich lessons I’ve learned in hard places. As much as I don’t wish for suffering, I wouldn’t trade what I gained from it either. Over and over again, the most difficult moments of my life have proved to be the most fertile. Which is, in part, why I’m glad you’re sitting on the sofa with me today, because there are some things I want you to know.
I can’t tell you how this will all work out. I can’t predict the future or make promises about outcomes. The truth is the world will not look the same on the other side of this season. But that is not necessarily a bad thing. Easy? No. Devastating? Not necessarily. Not if you know how to find peace right here, right now.
So when you feel your panic starting to rise and your peace beginning to fade, remind yourself of these TRUTHS. No, they won’t make everything better. But they will give you something to anchor yourself to, no matter what may come:
Truth #1: Life has always been uncertain. The pandemic simply made us aware of that fact. We like to think we’re in control, of course. And we drive our people batty with our attempts to pretend. But often all it takes is a crisis to remind us how little control we have. Don’t believe me? Spend even 15 minutes learning about the miracle of your heart. It beats 80 times a minute, 60 minutes an hour, 24 hours a day. And yet, somehow, it’s designed to work without fail for a hundred years. Every second of your life is held in the hands of an organ you don’t control. Life has always been fragile, precious. And the more we anchor ourselves in that truth, the richer our day-to-day lives will be. (John 16:33)
Truth #2: Your brain and body are wired up to identify danger and respond to it. Like a smoke detector, it keeps you safe when something is going seriously wrong. Why is this an important truth? If you’ve had some hard, inexplicable, seemingly irrational moments over the last few weeks, there’s nothing “wrong” with you. These are expected responses to hard, helpless, and unexpected circumstances. Don’t add shame to the load of what you’re already carrying. Make space to identify and talk about the big feelings. And be kind to yourself and others. (Colossians 3:12-14)
Truth #3: Life will, for all of us, come to an end one day. I hate to break it to you, but you’re mortal. That means you and I won’t get out of this alive. This sounds like bad news, I know. But accepting this reality—embracing it even!—provides a sense of peace and confidence you won’t get any other way. It keeps you inhaling the present rather than wishing for a future that may never be. The moment you stop trying to control and predict your tomorrows is the moment you start truly living your todays.
Truth #4: Enduring extraordinary circumstances is hard work. By now, you’ve probably noticed a bit of exhaustion, maybe irritability and difficulty sleeping. Sure, you’re not driving five days a week for work or spending hours in the carpool line at school. But processing change and uncertainty require extraordinary mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual energy. Pay attention to your body. Notice what you need. And then do what you can to care for it. For me, I do moderate exercise daily, spend time outside in the sunshine, practice centering prayer and solitude. I read novels and do puzzles, things that bring calm. And I go to bed early almost every night.
Truth #5: God is still in control. And He’s already guaranteed it works out in the end. Of course, if you don’t believe in God or eternity, you have every reason to panic. This life is all there is, and a lot is at stake. However, if you believe God is real, good, and can be trusted, then you can rest easy, no matter how dire things appear. We have a God who is not only supremely powerful but utterly good. And He will never operate outside of His love for us. It will only get better for us from here, friends. One way or the other, the best is yet to come. (John 14:18)
The truth I am hanging onto right now is found in Romans 8:35. “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?…No! I’ve never seen so much misinformation…so much confusion…so great a divide. Turning off the 24 hour news cycle and turning to the truth that never changes is how I’m keeping my wits about me these days. But admittedly some days I do better than others.
I too have struggled with the emotions attached to past suffering coming up with this pandemic. I have PTSD from severe physical symptoms associated with a long 10yr illness. It seems like some days no matter what I do I can’t tame the anxiety. Thankfully, #5 is what gets me through another day. You are such a blessing and help to me, thank you Michele!
I find peace in #5. And comfort in #4. Because I’m exhausted and know I’m not alone. I’m one of the older ones with auto immune disease, heart problems and diabetes. A triple threat .When we were first aware of this pandemic I was extremely fearful and wondering about my faith because I felt under attack and not trusting God. But I have realized that God gave us the emotion of fear to protect us in times of danger. We have to be smart and use that emotion for our safety. BUT we also have #5 to let us know that if we believe that God loves us then we win over fear because either way we are going to be okay. I’m not afraid of death because I know where I’m going but I am afraid of dying. I like many don’t want to suffer or die alone. Thank you writing this piece. I love you and am soooo blessed by YOU.
Read this comment, Linda, all these months later, and just wondered how you were doing. This pandemic has changed us and we all weary. I’m going to pray for you right now.
thnak you for your wise reminder, Michele
I want to tell you how much your style of sharing your thoughts and you faith is soo helpful and comforting to me – it’s something very special about you!!! I’m learning to put
my trust in God more and more by reading your books, they are soo precious to me!!
I pray for you that God may bless you in every way!
Greetings from Germany with much love! Christine
God is faithful, He is always with me no matter what and that He has the whole world in his hand. His mercies are New and Fresh every morning – Awake with him …. that’s what encourages me right now ??
This pandemic has had a totally different affect on our family than most. My husband who is a former tong cancer survivor started having a severe headache with nausea every time he stood or sat up. My daughter, a doctor, tried to help us find out what was wrong. We went to 3 different ER’s. Each time I was not allowed to go in with him, and they would give him fluids for a migraine and send him home. No one could tell us what was wrong. Finally 3 weeks later a Neurosurgeon got involved and told us he thought he had a spinal leak, but he would not operate until the Corona virus had settled down. BUT through prayers and communication, we are getting our operation tomorrow! I am so very grateful for God’s mercy and care! I am also very thankful HE let me speak my mind (very respectfully, and very emotionally).
Thank you michele. Your words and insight always bring such comfort because you have walked through it all and wrestled with and embraced all of his promises and thank God shared your journey with us so we can do the same. This is all so hard. As I’m going through losing my mom to this awful virus along with being robbed of being with her til the end an also not be able to go through mourning hugging and crying with friends and family and then battling this virus myself and trying to get my husband through it and getting close to possibly losing him,,,, this has been way too much. We are in an area that has lost so many to this virus and everyday more stories are listed. It’s overwhelming. Thank you for your words and lessons to help get through another rough day as we wrestle to trust.
Thank you for these words. They are much needed this morning.
Thank you for writing this Michelle – and Yes, I am also having my memory and emotions triggered from past suffering – but our God is ever present with us:
Psalm 73:23-26 ESV
Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
He will never leave me nor forsake me ♥️
It is for freedom that Christ has set you free. Remembering this verse helps me lower my expectations right now. Those expectations have always robbed my peace.
Thank you for your encouragement, Michele! May God bless you as you are such a blessing to others! If we all remember to take one day at a time, God will take us through that day and give us the strength we need! ❤️❤️