The world has changed seemingly overnight. We began the year making plans that are now irrelevant. Markets are in an apparent tailspin, and the healthcare system is holding its breath. Many authorities have now issued shelter-in-place orders, hoping to stave off the invisible invasion and sending many people home to stay.
In this isolation, what we euphemistically call “safer-at-home” here in Wisconsin we are confronted with another stressor we likely didn’t consider. We are faced with ourselves.
We may be with our families, or maybe we live alone, or with a roommate, but either way our person-to-person interactions are minimal. While many are feeling the increased busyness and stress of new demands at work, and new demands at home—we are finding that ourselves are still here, and more present than we’ve felt in a long time.
For most of this, this encounter with ourselves leaves us pushing down anxiety, fear, and uncertainty. Maybe for you it’s even anger.
In moments of crisis, this ability to push things down is a help to us. We are able to distance ourselves from overwhelming emotions and focus on the need at hand. However, as the rapid fire changes have happened, we are beginning to recognize that the crisis and urgency of this situation will extend weeks, and likely months.
Months under this kind of stress will take its toll. Studies have demonstrated stress and anxiety express themselves in our bodies. It’s important to recognize this physical manifestation of our emotions as a part of God’s design. We are not intended to live under stress, but in loving communion. Our flourishing comes from being known, and loved. But we hide from being known by others who love us, those who are worthy of our trust, and we run from God our loving Father. The stress, the anxiety, the anger, the frustration, the fear, and the pain, you have experienced in the past few weeks is something God desires to heal.
We need time. We must allow space to unwrap the layers of anxiety and fear we’ve been shoving aside. Layers is the right word, because it is a process of unwrapping our hearts. The reality is unwrapping those layers is often unpleasant, but it is necessary. And the beauty of that unwrapping, is that with the pain of unwrapping comes the comfort of healing in the presence of Christ.
Unwrapping requires the ability to be present with ourselves. This is harder to do than it sounds. Most of us are good at avoiding ourselves. This is because when we come face-to-face with ourselves, we find we are wanting. Deep within ourselves, as we approach who we are, we will find at our core identity dependence.
Crisis, such as the loss of a loved one, or a job, or all of these combined in our present pandemic, reminds us painfully of our absolute dependence. We are very good at creating illusions of control. These illusions comfort us. They comfort us as long as we can believe the lie they tell. The lie that you and I can control our lives. Truthfully you and I know we cannot control one hair on our head. Yet for some reason we’d rather cling to the lie than entrust ourselves than to the loving Father who does not allow a sparrow to fall without his notice.
And the undoing of ourselves is essential for our sanctification. We can know with our mind God deeply loves us, but it is only an act of God that heals our fear-ridden heart as we face our true selves. And as we do, we can receive with thankfulness the love God offers.
This is what Jesus has said to you and me. He has called us to life from death, just as he called Lazarus out of the tomb. And Jesus is in the deep work of healing the soul. He’s calling us with kindness to come forth into the light, that he may dress us for the New Creation. For indeed, death has been overcome, and is being overcome. The light has dawned, the morning is here. Let us live as those who walk in the light, and not shrink back in fear. For that which shame tells us to keep hidden is healed when it is brought to the light of Christ.
For anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” –Ephesians 5:14
If you would like to talk with myself or one of us pastors about some of the stress you are experiencing at this time, please reach out. We would love to talk over videoconferencing or the phone. We are here to provide you with an outlet to process what is going on internally and point you toward our hope in Jesus..