My 77-year-old mother is a model of efficiency. When she has news to share with her three children, rarely will she make three phone calls. If you ask my mom, email is sufficient for most communications. She also seems to doubt that group texts actually work. But group email? That’s her game. And the most recent email she sent to my brother, sister, and me read exactly as follows:
“The doctor called. I have the virus. Quarantined for 14 days after symptoms go away. Mom.”
Unfortunately, this was not the first piece of news I had received informing me that COVID-19 hit close to home. Over the past couple of months, a steady stream of texts and phone calls has revealed to me that someone tested positive, someone else was hospitalized, someone else passed away, and so on. I live in the NYC suburbs, and I need two hands to count the number of close friends and family members who were seriously affected by this virus.
However, the email from my mother was the first piece of news that kicked my anxiety into full swing. It was the first time in my life that I had to come to terms with the possibility of losing a parent.
At the same time, my high schooler was completely ignoring his remote learning, my husband was stressed out at work, and thoughts about Walking with Purpose had been keeping me awake at night. COVID-19 cancelled all the WWP spring events and impacted Bible study sales, and as the director of marketing, I’m constantly thinking about what I can do to support the ministry.
By late April it was clear to me that absolutely everything in my life was out of control. But friends, you will be relieved to know that I didn’t try to control it. If there’s one thing I learned from the Walking with Purpose Bible study Opening Your Heart, it's that God is in the driver’s seat.
But what to do about the constant anxiety? Yes, we can give up control and hand our struggles over to Christ, but I seem to have feelings of panic and worry that come on quite suddenly, triggered by stressful moments, no matter how much control I give up. When the Director of the CDC announced a week ago that a second and more difficult wave of COVID-19 was coming this fall, I uncorked a bottle of Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc faster than you can say quarantine.
Clearly, I needed better coping techniques.
In the Walking with Purpose Bible study Keeping in Balance, there’s a lesson that talks about anxiety as a barrier to contentment. It is such a helpful lesson that Walking with Purpose sent it out as a PDF to our email list last week (you can find that PDF here). In this lesson we are asked to reflect on 2 Corinthians 10:4-5, “Take every thought captive to obey Christ.” What I love about WWP Bible studies is how author Lisa Brenninkmeyer makes scripture passages easy for newbies like me to understand. Lisa says the way we take a thought captive is by “replacing the worry with a truth that builds [our] trust in God.”
That right there? That is an action item I can turn to (in place of the wine).
Here’s the truth I came up with to build my trust in God: Christ is present in humanity’s compassion, and that compassion is so clearly EVERYWHERE these days!
COVID-19 has unified humanity into the most massive force of good that I think this planet has ever seen. Millions around the globe are doing whatever it takes to fight the virus. From philanthropists pledging billions to speed the development of a vaccine, to medical professionals risking their lives to save COVID-19 patients, and school children collecting canned goods for food pantries, people are overflowing with kindness, and I recognize God in them.
As I finish writing this blog post, I’m singing in my head, “...every little thing, is gonna be alright.”
PS: I’m sorry to keep you hanging about my mom. She battled the virus quite easily, actually, and pulled through quickly. Thank you for all of your prayers!
 Lisa Brenninkmeyer, Keeping in Balance (Walking with Purpose, July 2019), 151.
Ever since we were told to shelter in place, I have been generally upbeat about everything going on. I know that it's bad out there, but I am naturally an optimist, so I focused on the positives. "Oh, the opportunities," I thought to myself. Sure, we couldn't go out, which is sad, but I'm an introvert, and there is an endless amount of projects to do and habits to form. By the end of this, my house would look perfect, and my husband and I would have finally started that couple's workout routine I have been dreaming about. With a smile on my face, I went about starting the new life in quarantine that we are all establishing. Then Easter came, and I hit my wall.
My husband and I tried to make our family’s Easter celebration as special as possible, but everything we did fell flat. Doing church while social distancing made me want to be next to people all the more. It made me miss the sacraments more than I ever have before. On a drive to get doughnuts from the grocery store, we saw another family that we know, and that was it. As we waved and drove on, all of that optimism crumbled as I finally admitted to myself that we are in this for the long haul.
I realized the adrenaline rush that I experienced at the beginning of the crisis was gone. What is left is the hard work of waking up every day and choosing if I will live my day in hope or not. As I soberly came to terms with this, I remembered the words that the Lord spoke to me four years ago when my husband and I welcomed our first daughter, and I had to get used to the "new normal" of life as a mother.
When my daughter was three months old, I was up at 2 am for the usual middle of the night feeding. All the excitement that comes with welcoming a baby had faded, leaving me face to face with the constant, often unseen, work of caring for my child. As I jealously looked at my sleeping husband, I started to get honest with God. I told him that, while I loved my daughter with a love that words cannot describe, this was hard. I missed my old life and the freedom I once had. I missed being able to pray whenever I wanted for however long I wanted and the exhilaration of jet-setting around the globe to preach the gospel. I missed a life where I was seen. Here, in the darkness, no one saw what I was doing; no one saw my suffering or my sacrifice. It was hidden.
In the middle of my complaining and mourning with God, he spoke clearly in my heart. "It is here that I make you holy," he said. "It is here in the unseen repetition of this new life, where much is hidden, and there is no applause, that I will expand your capacity to love. In this present monotony, I will sanctify you if you let me."
Friend, we are now a month into this global shutdown. The adrenaline rush is gone, the bad news is constant, and the end is not here yet. We are now officially in the middle, faced with the reality of living with this new normal everyday. While we are all in this together, it is undeniable that we are going through this crisis apart. Our daily realities look completely different depending on where we live and how hard the virus is hitting our city. Day in and day out, it can be so easy to feel that we are alone in our struggles and unseen by the outside world.
It is right here, however, in these unseen moments and unshared sufferings that God sees us. It is here that He wants to heal our hearts and make us holy. It is here that we have to make a choice. We can choose inertia and slowly give in to cynicism, numbness, and fear, or we can actively decide to renew our minds through daily prayer and surrender. We can choose to read too much news and spend too much time on our phones, or we can dive into the scriptures and spend time on things that will feed our soul.
I decided four years ago, in that quiet moment of prayer, that I would let God do His work in the hidden moments of my life, and I would be okay with the fact that they are hidden, only between Him and me. On Easter, I recommitted to that decision. Here in the middle of this crisis, the Lord wants to enter into your daily grind. He wants to be there in the small, hidden moments of your life, and He wants to use them to make you holy. I pray that you will let Him so that, when the end finally comes, you can emerge from this crisis more closely resembling the saint that He has called you to be.