It’s been almost five months since our lives were turned upside down by the novel COVID-19 virus. Face masks are becoming fashion accessories, cash is accepted in fewer stores, take-out trumps dine-in, and in-person schooling is becoming a thing of the past. Welcome to the new normal!
Our family has mostly held it together until last week. We finally lost it with the kids. And the kids finally had a meltdown when we had to cancel weekend plans with friends due to their exposure to the coronavirus. Five months was a pretty good run! With so much uncertainty and so many challenges, it’s becoming apparent that people everywhere are having a difficult time coping with a new way of life.
Whether people are overeating, overdrinking, over or under-exercising, TV shows binging, yelling, or withdrawing from loved ones, our unhealthy coping mechanisms don’t seem to make their life easier.
Noone seems to have the answers everyone is craving. Thankfully, we can turn to the one Source who can stabilize our emotions. We are always encouraged when we turn to God’s word, and we wanted to share a few things He showed us recently from Paul’s letter to the church in Colossae. He is writing to them from a prison cell where he is jailed for preaching the gospel. You might say he’s indefinitely quarantined…but without our modern conveniences! He writes:
“2 Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. 3 At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison—4 that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.
5 Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. 6 Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person
7 Tychicus will tell you all about my activities. He is a beloved brother and faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord. 8 I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are and that he may encourage your hearts, 9 and with him Onesimus, our faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you. They will tell you of everything that has taken place here.” -Colossians 4:2-9
From this passage, we have been encouraged with 5 healthy coping skills that will help us manage this “new normal” way of life.
1. Paul is encouraging the church to keep steadfastly praying and giving thanks. We know! These two things seem to be counterintuitive during difficult times. However, living in a constant state of fear, worry, and cynicism will not move us through our hardships. It’s okay to think about the things that worry us if we can point them toward God. By turning our worries into prayers, we put the burden on Someone who can actually handle them.
Counting our blessings and being thankful is another remedy for worry. When we begin to list the things we have to be grateful for, it changes our perspective, which inevitably changes our attitude and brings peace. We don’t know what God’s future plans hold, but we believe that prayer and thanksgiving are part of them. “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” -1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
2. The next thing we can draw from this passage is we have to accept our current circumstances as “the new norm” and remember our mission hasn’t changed. Paul is writing from prison, knowing he may never get out. But he asks for prayer to be able to continue sharing Jesus where he is. The very reason Paul was thrown in prison was that he wouldn’t shut up about Jesus. Now he’s saying, maybe I’m here because otherwise, I wouldn’t be able to share this message with the prison guards and fellow prisoners! What do you do with a guy like that? You put him in quarantine, and he still won’t shut up!
We don’t know how long life will look like it does now for our nation. It’s discouraging to keep hoping for things to open up only to have them shut down again. But, if we can accept this season as an indefinite lifestyle change, we can get on with what God has for us to do. Our individual and family missions haven’t changed. God desires to use each of us where we are to love and lead people for His glory. Having a purpose gives us hope, even if our circumstances don’t change.
3. When we are overwhelmed and discouraged, be careful what you say and to whom you say it.
“Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” Colossians 4:5-6
We are all gonna lose it from time to time. But we need to remember that others are hurting, too. Lately, we have been disheartened by the lack of grace people are extending for the dissenting opinions of others on social media platforms. Frustration seems to be aggressively, and passive-aggressively flooding news feeds. “Friends” are becoming hurt by harsh comments that are only fueling division.
As believers, God has called us to walk in wisdom and then speak graciously when we answer people. We can either win an argument or win people. But most likely, we can’t do both. It’s healthy to vent our frustrations. But we need to open up to people closest to us who love us enough to respond with truth and encouragement.
4. Realize that what you are doing is still significant.
You may not currently be doing what you thought you would be doing or wanted to be doing with your life. But you have a purpose. We never thought we would be working from home and homeschooling. We are still holding out some hope that we won’t be in a couple of weeks. But, we’re preparing to accept the worst. Being a stay-at-home mom can leave me (Bonnie) feeling used and insignificant when it has taken me two hours to write this post (so far) due to interruptions.
But, I am encouraged by Paul’s beloved friend, Tychicus, from this passage. Just think! All he felt he was doing was delivering a letter from Paul to a church. Little did he know that the words in his mail pouch would become part of the Holy Scripture to the Church and provide encouragement to believers for centuries! Such a menial task had far more significant implications than his limited experience could imagine. Hang in there, dear friend. What you are doing is still important, and God knows how your faithfulness in the small things will impact others, even if you don’t.
5. Finally, as you cope with this new normal, don’t go in a hole alone.
Though he was imprisoned, Paul found strength from his “beloved brother and faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord,” Tychicus and his “faithful and beloved brother, Onesimus.” We are all going to have bad days and feel like we can’t handle this new normal. But we have to stay in community with people who will lift us up when we can’t take another step on our own.
We also have to lean into our spouse like never before. We need each other to simply survive. Keep talking to each other and finding ways to work through your new complicated schedule together. Now is the time to pull together and put away petty quarrels and division. God has called us to keep putting one foot in front of the other and encouraging each other to move through hard days.
“Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” – Ecclesiastes 4:9-12
It would be wonderful if we all wake up tomorrow to a cure for the world-wide pandemic we’re facing. We would love to return to mask-free, face-to-face coffee with friends while our children are safely learning at school with their friends. Oh, to worship side-by-side with church members in our building and meet again with small groups to study God’s word! We long to visit our parents and hug them without fear of jeopardizing their health.
But if life as we knew it never resumes, we must find ways to keep moving forward. We will lean into each other and find safe ways to connect with people outside of our home. And we will keep searching God’s word to draw strength from the One who never grows weary and promises to carry us… even to the end of the age.
Enjoying the Adventure,
Daniel & Bonnie