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)