Here in the UK, we received the news yesterday that after over 3 weeks of social distancing, we will continue as we are for another 3 weeks. This news isn’t altogether unsurprising. If you didn’t see this coming, you were being very naive.They say it takes 31 days to build new habits, so it shouldn’t be long until this new normal is just normal.
Thing is, it’s still difficult to come to terms with. I’ve been involved in various Skype/Zoom calls the past few weeks, and in one in particular, a colleague (who is a bit older than me, so therefore wiser, and in a more senior role than me) told us about the change curve – her and her line manager had been discussing it in their one-to-one, and she’d renamed it after herself. I loved this idea, because I felt exactly the same way.
If I felt the same way, I’m sure there are others of you out there who do too. She had placed a picture of her face on each point, with arrows jumping around from point to point. She explained that in the space of a few minutes, or between meetings, over lunch, during the day etc she might jump from acceptance to denial, then to depression and confusion, to problem solving, then back to denial etc.
I thought it was a really great way to show how we’re all coping with the realities of the situation we’re in. I feel we can all rename the change curve to our respective names.
A lot of what I personally have been feeling though, is guilt. I don’t know for sure if I’ve had COVID-19. I’ve had some minor symptoms, and felt quite run down, but not enough to be certain that I’ve had it. Before all of this kicked off, I had been suffering with a serious dip in my mental health, and my back flares up with pain sometimes.
Living on my own and social distancing exacerbates my depression; the news and social media have exacerbated my anxiety; lack of movement/activity has exacerbated my back pain. But I don’t feel like I’m allowed to be struggling. I know NHS workers who are struggling, and their struggle is egregious. They’re on the frontline: they’re like the soldiers in the trenches in World War I – they are face to face with death and they’re losing their own lives working to save others. What right do I have to feel like I’m struggling?
I posted recently about some of the coping mechanisms I’ve employed to try and help myself (you can read it here) – I talk about how I’ve turned off the notifications for my news app, and how I deleted Facebook because it’s been particularly negative. One of the other things I mentioned was try not to be like me – your feelings are valid.
I’ve tried to practice what I preach – and accept that my struggle, as a single woman living alone struggling with anxiety and depression and pain management, is just as valid as colleagues and friends who have young children, and partners and managing working from home and tutoring young children. Not to mention my friends working on the frontline in the NHS – or the people who have this virus, or the people who have lost family members to it. There are also the people who have lost their income, losing their businesses, and struggling to put food on the table.
The guilt comes from seeing other people’s struggle and recognising that I’m blessed, so I must be broken to be struggling in my lane.
A few years ago, I was at Hillsong Conference and Craig Groeshel delivered a brilliant message, that I return to often. My notes say:
The fastest way to kill something special is to compare it to something else. Wherever comparison begins, contentment ends. Comparison either makes you feel superior or inferior – neither further the kingdom of God.From Craig Groeschel’s message at Hillsong Conference in August 2017
I remember Craig making a joke about the competition between two of Jesus’ disciples – John and Peter. I think I’m safe in saying most Christians identify with Peter. (I can speak with some authority – I was at conference once where the speaker ran through each disciple asking who identified with which – I couldn’t even name all the disciples [still can’t!] but I knew I felt like Peter, turns out, the whole audience did!) Peter, for those who don’t know, is passionate about Jesus, but also super fallible. He was brave enough to step out and walk on water because Jesus called to him, but he also panicked and started drowning. He told Jesus he would die with Him, and then within hours, denies he ever knew Him.
John wrote one of the gospels and refers to himself as ‘the one who Jesus loved’ – I mean, talk about bigging yourself up. But also, he literally wrote the book, so why not make yourself sound as good as possible? There’s one particular part of John that Craig Groeschel highlighted – John 21:20-22.
Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is going to betray you?”) When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?” Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.”John 21:20-22
Peter looked at John and asked Jesus what about him? Jesus’ response was “What does it matter what John does? All that matters, Peter, is that you do what I called you to do.”
Craig’s message was about self worth and the craving of something extra to feel like your life is fulfilled. But it’s equally applicable now – because Jesus cares about the struggle you and I are facing, whether my struggle is my isolation, depression, anxiety and back pain, and your struggle is trying to keep food on the table after you lost your job due to COVID-19 closures, or if your struggle is having the courage to keep turning up for work as an NHS doctor/nurse/porter etc.
Jesus also understands pain and suffering. His journey to the cross was not an easy one – it’s the type you’d turn notifications off of. But he knows. And for those of you (like me at times) shouting out to God why he’s forgotten me – why has he deserted me? Guess what – Jesus said those exact same words
About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli,: Some manuscripts Eloi, Eloi lema sabachthani?”(which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).Matthew 27:46
Jesus knows pain and suffering, so whatever your suffering looks like, you can find comfort in His arms. Being a Christian doesn’t mean these times get easier, it means you have faith in someone who has been there, and loves you completely. If we lift our eyes to Jesus, rather than compare ourselves, or feel guilt about our level of suffering. My worth is only accountable in His eyes, and He wants to know about my suffering (which is valid – if it’s real to me, then it’s real to Him) – and He wants me to know that I’m loved and that I can find peace in Him.