At the beginning of the year, when my husband and I realized we already had half a dozen dates spoken for, we sat down at our kitchen table to coordinate our calendars. We knew if we didn’t pencil them in, we might just find ourselves double-booked. For us, it was unusual to know so many dates this far in advance. As empty nesters who don’t need to arrange childcare anymore — last-minute road-tripping is how we roll.
Seeing all those fun things blocked off in black and white got me excited. Something special was scheduled for every month through mid-summer, and some months even had two special occasions! I couldn’t recall another year that had had so many back-to-back opportunities. Bless my children’s and sister’s hearts; they had the pleasure of enduring me repeatedly regale my/our fabulous upcoming plans — For All Who Wander book promotion, weddings, graduations, work-related and family travel. 2020 was shaping up to be a lively year, a spectacular beginning to a new decade.
Of course, nothing like a little global pandemic to remind you that “life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.” One by one, we watched those saved dates fall like dominoes. Profound disappointment quickly extinguished my previously palpable excitement.
I observed something interesting about how I was processing the impact and implications of sheltering in place, social distancing, and everything else related to COVID-19: I felt guilty for being frustrated and disappointed over all my cancellations and inconveniences. As I began comparing my situation to the effect and losses others were experiencing, I was ashamed. Functionally speaking, I was assigning a greater value to “big” losses (children’s much-anticipated birthday parties; high school and college seniors missing proms, end-of-year-parties, and graduations; baby and bridal showers, anniversary parties, weddings; lost income, job loss, business failure; and in the saddest cases, health and even life), but giving zero weight to my own. On this imagined spectrum of “worthy enough to warrant disappointment, frustration, or grief,” my losses didn’t even register. In effect, I was telling myself I wasn’t allowed to have any feelings at all because my circumstances weren’t as bad as their circumstances (and “their” pretty much meant anyone other than myself).
As I said in a recent post about what I was doing to counter social distancing fatigue following a cancelled book event, “To pretend our losses aren’t valid because they don’t compare or are ‘too small to matter’ isn’t the right response. Every loss and disappointment matters to us as individuals because it’s the truth of our reality.” Our feelings matter because our circumstances matter because our lives matter to God. Certainly, we should always regard and be sensitive to others. At the same time, now is a pivotal time to check perspective and thoughtfully consider what we value as important.
Our entire world has been disrupted by the coronavirus. With the exception of Antarctica (which has no permanent residents and is currently in winter with temps averaging between -20°— -30°), every continent has reported cases of COVID-19. As I’ve processed my own inconveniences and disappointments through a lens of sensitivity to others and with kindness and grace to myself, one question keeps coming to mind:
What in the world is God doing?
The only way we can even begin to understand what in the world God is up to is to have our eyes on Jesus. I keep returning to the story about Peter, when he had to step out of a boat and walk on turbulent water to get to Jesus (Matthew 14:25-33). As long as Peter was looking at Jesus, he was fine; but as soon as he shifted his eyes toward the wind, he began to sink. The more fierce the coronavirus-wind blows, the more determined I am to focus on Christ. When I don’t, I start sinking, which thankfully turns me right back to God.
What in the world is God doing? is a question I’ve posed countless times in recent weeks, sometimes changing my inflection or word emphasis to ask an almost entirely different question. Though there’s no way you or I can answer it in full, at least we can in part. I’ll kick us off with three things I see God doing in our world, and I hope you’ll continue with your own observations in the comments.
- God is working in His children. As my schedule cleared, I sensed God working in my heart to prioritize what was most important. When it’s quiet enough to hear, when I’m less busy doing and instead simply being, I’m able to see that there isn’t anything more important than my relationship with Him. If it’s been a while, take a moment and read all of Psalm 46. It begins with, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble . . . ” and after a lot of turmoil on earth, it continues with “‘Be still, and know that I am God.'” There’s something to the stillness of this season that ushers us into greater intimacy with God. Being still helped me to receive the love and encouragement God was offering me through His Word, as I saw how much I matter to Him again and again.
- God is making Himself known through people. It has been beautiful watching the Church rise up and serve those in need (and let’s face it, all of us have been in need of toilet paper at some time or another!). I don’t know how many times I’ve been asked, “How are you doing? No, how are you really doing?” The genuine care and concern I see — for friends and family, neighbors, and especially strangers — has reminded me that we get to be Jesus with skin on to a world that is desperate to see Him. Sometimes we may even be entertaining angels unaware (Hebrews 13:1-4 ESV).
- God is reminding us we aren’t made for this world. 1 John 2:15-17 cautions us not to love the world and that it’s passing away; Philippians 3:20 declares our citizenship is in heaven. I don’t know about you, but there were so many things I counted on and clung to just a few weeks ago that don’t seem to matter so much anymore.
God is on the move even now. Let’s keep keeping our eyes on Him.
What do you see God doing in the world?
There's something to the stillness of this season that ushers us into greater intimacy with God. -@robindance: Click To Tweet Leave a Comment
Robin, You have very valid points; however, I am looking at it from another angle since I am 83 years old. For some time, I have been major disgusted & disappointed in so many people & things..after all, God did say what he created He called “good”. It seems like God is not treated with reverence & love He deserves, so He is trying to get our attention. I have been praying for revival around the world!
Robin Dance says
Thank you so much for sharing your perspective, a perspective earned with time. My thought when reading your comment was, “Does it have to be either/or, or might it be both/and?” I join you in praying for revival.
Especially with our nation literally on fire right now, sprinkled with the tears of so many on behalf of George Floyd and too many injustices, we…need…Jesus.
Prayers are much needed in the state of MN as violence/protests are escalating each day since it happened, and people have lost their business as well. Thank you! A revival is definitely needed, but it needs to begin with people’s heart which needs to be CHANGED first. Let peace begin with me… Peace = Jesus.
Robin Dance says
I know, Carrie. I’m watching from a distance, heartbroken for the anguish I’m seeing in Minnesota (one of our incourage writers lives not far from all of this, so my ears perked up as soon as things began happening :/). I’m praying for Jesus to be near, for God’s presence to rise up and heal the broken and brokenhearted.
I agree. I’m praying for revival too!
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
I know there have been many other times in my life in which God had to clear away the clutter in front of me so that we could see each other eye to eye. Our ultimate purpose in being created is to be in relationship with God…period. We let busyness, events, people, earthly relationships, drama, our agendas get in the way. I believe, that for a long time, God has been trying to get our corporate attention and we’ve done like His chosen people, the Israelites, did, we disobeyed and did our own thing. I know that I have been forced to be still and I’ve spent more intentional time with God – not just check it off the checklist time. I hope we can take this refocusing on what’s most important forward with us when things start getting back to “normal.” Great post!
Robin Dance says
I always look forward to your thoughts, Bev; your presence in the incourage community is highly valued. I wrote this post with a strong measure of restraint, hoping that many would share their thoughts. We’re off to a wonderful start.
(and I DO think beyond our nation’s outrage as I’m writing this comment, in addition to the onslaught of locusts and cicadas around the world…a few more eyes are looking toward God maybe?)
Michele Morin says
My own tiny losses in this season also seem minuscule compared to others, but loss is loss, and I am grateful for permission to grieve without guilt. And as I read your post, the old hymn “Tell It to Jesus” was singing itself in my brain.
Robin Dance says
Sometimes we DO need permission to do something that’s perfectly normal but we don’t feel like we have the freedom to; does that make sense? And, how much do I appreciate your old school response by way of a hymn? 🙂
Beth Williams says
I sense God making a way for families to be together more. Actually eat meals at table, doing Bible studies, praying, etc. He slowed us down enough to get our attention & make us focus on Himself. We all get busy doing things & activities, though they may be good, they take away our time from God. He will use whatever means He must to get our attention & focus back on Himself. He wants His children to have a relationship with Him. He’s patiently waiting each day for us to commune with Him. People are actually helping others. Taking the time to call, text, or write cards & letters. Doing small things to show you care. My hubby got furloughed a month ago. That meant more time with hubby. We’ve spring cleaned the house. Listened to our preacher on line, done devotionals & talked more. I pray when things get back to “normal” that people won’t go back to being super busy but make time daily for God & their families.
Robin Dance says
What a sweet response, Beth. You really have taken advantage of the circumstances we find ourselves in. 🙂
Darlene Slon says
Robin I totally agree that every loss or disappointment matters to God. I think we so often don’t want to feel the loss and as you said not validate our feelings are real. I think the comparison thing can easily lead us away to think that we are going threw doesn’t matter to God compared to what others May be facing. Realizing to give ourselves grace and express those disappointments to him. He is always so faithful and kind to come along side of us and listen and bring the comfort we need. My husband and myself operate a small business and have been able to stay open the whole time through this pandemic. That has been a wonderful blessing in a way but at times have wished for more time to “ just be still. “ I savour the times I am able to do that and to draw near to Him. As I have talked to friends and family who have been home schooling It has had it challenges but what a great way and blessing to get to know your children better! There has been disappointments but God is working in the midst of it all for our good! I agree with Beth as we can become so busy In our everyday routines we can forgot what really matters and that is our relationship with God and then our relationship with others. We are here to serve and glorify God! Thank you for your beautiful post Robin!
Robin Dance says
What a blessing to have been able to remain open with your family’s small business! And yet, you haven’t had that “pause” so many have experienced, and you can see a bright side perhaps people in that position aren’t able to see. Thank you for sharing your joy and insight. 🙂
I see God humbling everyone.. as this landed on almost everyone on earths plate in some shape or form.. poor and rich alike
we are being humbled all of us together. we now are doing ” old fashioned ” things like spending time at home/ baking / gardening and board games with our teens. instead of driving out of the driveway day after day to chase our goals / set up our self worth etc. now everyone is seeing themselves differently and good things are coming out of this..
we getting to know neighbors across the fence / we are bonding with our kids more / new friendships between husband’s and wives.. God is moving in this shutdown period.
May we never forget to see the good in these times…
Robin Dance says
Yes and amen!
sending prayers to those who need it. our journey is not always wonderful but because we have hope we have God. and because we have God we have hope.
the bible talks about seasons in our lives that will change. this is definetly a season we will be happy to walk thru it to see better days coming !
my prayers for the women who need it. be sure to reach out to pastors/ women’s groups and others. a talk can do wonders.
Maybe it’s God’s way of helping to bring us all closer together in a more meaningful way, while He reminds us that we are not alone although for some this might be a very lonely time. There is still so much kindness being instilled in so many ways and has given me a new sense of gratitude & appreciation for what I otherwise might have taken for granted.
Matthew 14:24-34 27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them,”Take heart it is I. Do not be afraid.”
Thank-you Robin for your beautifully written, thoughtful post.
Blessings to all,
Robin Dance says
Thank you for your ind words, Penny!
And yes, I love the scripture you shared. Jesus knows what we NEED to hear. xo
Gillian Mackenzie says
This made me weep. COVID-19 has broken my family and, most likely, my marriage. It has taken such a huge mental toll on the four of us. I can’t go into detail and I’ve taken it to God SO MANY times, yet I feel nor heard nothing from Him. I long to feel as you do. I pray to feel as you do. But I feel lost and abandoned and honestly been close to ending my own life. I don’t know what to do at all. So exhausted.
Gillian, I have been praying for you. Please don’t give up. I know it is so hard to wait. I am one of the most impatient people there is, but please just trust that God will answer in His time and His way. Keep praying as will I for you and your family.
Robin Dance says
I am praying for you! I believe you read this post and commented perhaps for me to remind you that God, indeed, is with you, loves you, and is present despite your feelings. His Word tells us this. I’m not trying to persuade you to read my book (For All Who Wander), but you may want to sign up for the free book club ( https://aws.incourage.me/for-all-who-wander-book-club ). One of the chapters is called “Lost at the County Fair” and it’s about feeling lost but not actually being lost. Our feelings are so deceptive. Another of the messages I hope to convey in FAWW is where you are today is not where you’ll be forever! Your circumstances sound really hard (I’m so sorry), but it won’t be like this forever. Please hold on; if these thoughts continue, reach out to a pastor or local help line! THERE IS HELP. Maybe spend some time in the Gospels, especially John. There, you’ll see Jesus and read all about God’s love. You are valued, known, and loved and Scripture will remind you of this over and over.
Becky Keife says
My heart is breaking with you. I’m so sorry for the devastation you and your family have experienced because of Covid. I hear the desperation in your words. Along with my sincere prayers, I offer you this truth that I’ve SEEN lived out exactly when I thought all hope was lost:
There is no valley too dark or pit too deep for the redemptive love of God.
God is not done writing your story — even when you can’t see His hand or hear His voice right now. Please hold on, sister. Know that your (in)courage family is praying for you. Please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and talk to someone today: 800-273-8255. Your life is too precious.
Thank you for being here and sharing your heart. You are loved, Gillian.
(in)courage Community Manager
Sending prayers your way – from across the world in India. Know that even though the night is dark, dawn is coming. Please don’t lose faith, don’t lose hope. Take care
Susan C says
praying for you
Dawn Ferguson-Little says
God I believe is doing this with the corononavarious to get us as his followers especially. Some of us to get back into his word the Bible and Prayer. Plus for us his followers to stand on his promises. Be the Church to the world out there. If we can. As the Church is not the building. We the followers of Jesus are. If we’ll enough. If we can if can help a neighbor by asking them do they need any shopping done. Or making a meal for an family member etc. Do it all in Love. As Jesus would want us to do that. Even phone someone or text them if you can’t get to see them to see if they are ok. Let them know you are still thinking of them. You have not forgotten about them. You are praying for them. Especially if not saved. You never know what that text of phone call could mean too them. You could brighten their day too hear from you. Continue to thank God for every day he wakes you up to enjoy another beautiful day in in his beautiful world. That you got roof over your head clothes on your back shoes on your feet food on your table and clean running water. When there are people in our world who don’t have theses things. Love today’s reading. Thank you for you all Incourage keep you all in prayer Dawn Ferguson-Little xxxx
Robin Dance says
Thank you for pointing us to Jesus again and again, Dawn :).
Camilla Hubbard says
I am so, so sorry that your circumstances are so dire at this point in time, Here is my prayer for you: – “Heavenly Father, I thank You that You are approachable, and You listen and you Love. We cannot always understand why You let us linger through the hard times, But we know You are trustworthy and loving and compassionate, and I pray now that You will let Gillian KNOW THAT SHE IS LOVED BY YOU, I pray You will soothe and comfort her through the present difficulties, I pray Gillian may be helped by Robyn’s perspective on things from her book chapter, and that maybe You put that in place for her at this time. I pray that Gillian will know that she is special to You, and to people who don’t know her, from across the world (in Australia) and our hearts go out to her on Your behalf. Thank You Lord, that You listen and understand,” And Thank you, Robyn, for your lovely posts., and responses.
Robin Dance says
What a lovely prayer for Gillian, Camilla….thank you for caring, praying, and encouraging <3.
Lauren Griesmeyer says
Gillian, I care and so does God! Praying for you! Love in Him! Lauren
I see really beautiful nature right outside my door and that is God. I see us being separated from things that aren’t really important like shopping and eating out and things of that nature and less of that gives us more time to focus on God and people. I feel like God is taking away some of the distractions so we can focus on what is more important. I also see situations where people are being kinder to each other and that is God as well.
Robin Dance says
Perhaps some of these things we’d miss were it not for “this time.” The state of our world is making me thankful for eternity….
Me too, right now I just crave more time with Jesus.
Great post. I’m a few days late at commenting but what I do see is crazy things not just the pandemic but the plagues like the locusts swarming African crops and into Asia and Pakistan. I see people protesting against the loss of life of black lives due to racism. I see a broken world a hurting world that needs God.
We are going back to work here in New Zealand and although we are still taking precautions life is a little more normal at level 2.
In amongst both the pandemic and other issues take Hong Kong for example I see people looking for what is right, fighting for freedoms.
God is here. It doesn’t make huge sense but I know he is here. I see the outpouring of international interest and love at injustices. I see people praying for us all. For health, for health workers and patients, for healing..
I see people protesting to stand up for what is right. Jesus is in that. (Not the looting) but he is standing with those who are trying to show love by protesting against loss of life and injustice. Jesus is with us in our acts of support, of kindness and love.
That’s the best I can explain it.
I mean God is in the love, the fight against injustice. Through people and their actions, their prayers. He is waking the world up. He did not make us to be living like this. To be hurting others – we are all his masterpieces and I feel like He is with the victims, with the protesters, with the families, the healthcare workers, with people suffering. Jesus was always with the everyday people NOT ruling from on high. He was with the people, the ones he died for…us! So I feel like he is in the middle of all this loving on everyone and trying to teach us something- change is coming.
Dawn Camp says
I went through the month of June on my calendar last night and wrote Canceled at the end of all those lost events. I couldn’t bear to completely erase them. Then Bryan’s phone started blowing up as all the notifications of changed events started syncing with his phone too. When others have dealt with life or death issues—quite literally—it can make you feel guilty to mourn what’s lost, but it’s real.