I don’t know about you, but I’ve noticed a lot more tension between people during this pandemic. I see less patience, less grace, less kindness and less love. I see more arguing, more suspicion, more division and more anger.
Sure, it’s an election year — that’s part of it. Also, unemployment is up, kids and teachers can’t go back to school, and churches are unable to meet indoors. To top it off, we don’t really know when life will get back to “normal,” so there’s a certain fatigue that sets in when we don’t see a light at the end of the tunnel per se. Psychologists have been talking about the connection between an overall increase in irritability and the coronavirus pandemic.
A grief observe
The other day, I was feeling very sad about what I was seeing. I talked to a friend who works in the medical field, and she had an interesting observation. “People are grieving,” she said. “They’re grieving the loss of how they wanted things to be.”
She explained how in her profession, she is often verbally attacked by her patients’ family members. When they don’t like the status of their loved one’s health or want a more favorable report, they often lash out. She has to listen while providing the facts of the situation to educate these hurting (and hurtful) people in what is true.
Clinically speaking, there are five stages of grief: denial (and isolation), anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Whether we’ve lost a loved one, a job, a relationship or an opportunity during this pandemic, many of us are somewhere on that spectrum. And as broken, sinful people, our grief is complicating our relationships with our fellow humans — and even clouding our witness. I know this has been true for me.
In the midst of grief, we need to be reminded of the facts of how to live for Christ. Here are a few I think are helpful to remember.
Love one another.
This is so easy to say and so hard to do. Jesus told His disciples, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12). There’s not a lot of wiggle room in that statement. Love others like Jesus loves me. Did life go perfectly for our Savior? In one sense, yes, because He fulfilled the perfect will of His Father. But some parts of His life were extremely painful and full of deep loss. He was pierced and crushed for our iniquities, and yet He loved us fully.
While Christians are called to fight spiritual battles (Ephesians 6) and stand up for truth, there are clear instructions on how to do that. Take Titus 3:1-2, for example: “Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.”
Those words feel nearly impossible to uphold right now, especially the “perfect courtesy” part. But here’s why it matters. When we take offense, quarrel, gossip and are rude, we are not “ready for every good work.” Instead we’re wasting our energy and emotion on something that fails to build God’s kingdom and even tears it down. Paul reminds us in Philippians 2:14-15, “Do all things without grumbling and disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.”
Be an encourager.
If there was ever a time when people need encouragement, it’s now. The difficulty is that stress tends to cause us to look inward to our own hurts rather than reach out to address the pain of others. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 says, “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up.” This verse is speaking of fellow believers, because we are one in Christ. But those who don’t yet know Christ also need encouragement. Paul wrote, “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4).
We’re in a cultural moment where people, even believers, are divided on many issues. But we are called to lay aside our differences to encourage each other to love God and follow Jesus. There have been many times in my own life where I have been pressed down by discouragement, but then I received a text or a phone call at just the right time and was encouraged to persevere. Look around your sphere of influence and identify those people who might need your encouragement today.
Looking to a perfect Savior
This COVID season has been a difficult one for many of us. Most of us have suffered loss of some kind, and it’s natural to grieve. But let’s also keep our eyes focused on the main thing — Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. He is with us, helping us live for Him and accomplish everything He has planned for us regardless of our circumstances. He is a compassionate Savior who experienced his own grief yet provides us with a path to hope and victory. That is the news we need to be telling the world.
Copyright 2020 Suzanne Hadley Gosselin. All rights reserved.