Usually I’m a “keep-the-Christmas-decorations-up-until-February-because-it’s-dark-and-I’m sad” kind of person. But not this year. This year I kept telling people how excited I was to get back to regular life.
Then came what would have been the first day back to school. Any time I thought about the next few weeks of online learning, I cried. Two years into a pandemic, and somehow it feels just as hard to navigate the disappointments.
Are you also feeling “done” with online school?
I may not be the picture of emotional stability these days, but I do have a few truths I’ve been clinging to. God has been using them to convict and encourage me.
Maybe he’ll use them in your life too.
Last night a friend reminded me of my favourite verses, Psalm 84:11-12:
For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly. O LORD of hosts, blessed is the one who trusts in you! For the LORD God is a sun and shield;
It doesn’t say “if your circumstances feel good” or “if you agree with God about what’s good.” It simply says: no good thing does he withhold.
It’s so easy to think there is something better out there. Something that God is keeping back from me. It’s so easy to chase after the “if onlys” and “whys.” It is so easy to long for the other side.
While God welcomes and encourages me to lament with the psalmist, “HOW FREAKIN’ LONG????” (Psalm 13:1, writer’s emphasis), I must also agree with him: the Lord has given me good. Even in a pandemic, God is good to me.
As I trust in his steadfast love, I choose again to rejoice (like the psalmist does by the end of Psalm 13). While the deepest parts of me long for delivering grace, I am met with sustaining grace. The mercy God renews toward me again today (Lamentations 3:22-23) is just enough for this day’s troubles (Matthew 6:34).
A friend prayed today that I might have “an extra dose of patience,” as if it’s a booster I could get from the pharmacy. But patience is a fruit of the Spirit, hard-won as I choose to wait on God.
As Robert Wilken, quoted in the Liturgy of the Ordinary, says,
The singular mark of patience is not endurance or fortitude but hope. To be impatient . . . is to live without hope. Patience is grounded in the Resurrection. It is life oriented toward a future that God is doing, and its sign is longing, not so much to be released from the ills of the present, but in anticipation of the good to come.
Jesus is victorious over death; the end of the story is certain even in our present uncertainty. Our hope is not that one day we’ll get to live without restrictions or masks or Covid. Our hope is that one day God will make all things new. One day God will welcome us into eternity with himself.
As my perspective shifts, my waiting feels more meaningful. These days are not the off season to skip over when rewatching a series. This time matters. It’s helping me want what’s better. Even if it’s still hard to not have better now.
Waiting with God in the unknown will not be wasted.
Dorothy Bass, also quoted in the Liturgy of the Ordinary, puts words to the problem so well:
We delude ourselves into believing that if we can just get everything done, if we can only tie up all the loose ends, if we can even once get ahead of the crush, we will prove our worth and establish ourselves in safety . . .
[These] distortions drive us into the arms of a false theology: we come to believe that we, not God, are the masters of time. We come to believe that our worth must be proved by the way we spend our hours and that our ultimate safety depends on our own good management.
You are not loved more or less because of the things you can accomplish today. If this day is heavy and hard, there is space to grieve with God, get some fresh air, and phone a friend. The gospel frees you to be human.
Online learning is draining and challenging. Which makes it extra important to ask the question: What will truly be life-giving for my soul?
Don’t sell yourself short in mindless scrolling or binge-watching or feeding the anxiety monster with the endless news cycle. (It’s also unhelpful to feed the anxiety monster endless amounts of chocolate, but we can talk about my emotional eating another time.)
There are two ditches to avoid in this season of stress: accomplishing too much and too little. You are not what you do, but some activities are more helpful than others.
Whatever your current discomforts and disappointments, may you walk with God through them. They are a chance to practise believing that God is always good. To learn to long for Jesus’ coming and restoration of all things. And to find your identity in who God says you are, not what you can accomplish in a day.
We are waiting, but God will see us through.