Well, what can I say? It’s been quite a year.
My family has fared reasonably well with the restrictions. Since 2004, I’ve homeschooled or hybrid homeschooled my children, and my software engineer husband only went into the office two days a week before Seattle closed down in March. We’re used to being home.
Yet like most, we’ve had our emotional reactions to the lockdowns, especially my extroverted daughter. She learns better in-person and needs a high level of socializing. Fortunately, our homeschool co-op is meeting in person now.
Even our hermit-like son experienced frustration when his spring quarter classes of welding and machining consisted only of online lectures for the first several weeks.
I’ve been wrestling with mask fatigue, the loss of civil liberties, and the economic damage.
To be candid, I believe the cure has been worse than the disease. The loss of small businesses—and people’s dreams—particularly weighs heavy on my heart. People don’t want a handout from the government; they want to run their businesses and support themselves and their employees.
Zoom school hasn’t worked for students or teachers either. In a Facebook post, a teacher friend lamented over how parents supported teachers last spring, but now they are cranky and demanding. Because students can’t engage with a computer screen all day, record numbers of children are failing.
Also, without playdates, time in the park, and extracurricular activities, youth have lost ways to relieve stress. Without this outlet, anxiety and depression tend to grow, making it harder for students to focus on their studies. Loss of normality has left some “Numb.”
People Need Human Contact
As social creatures, we need in-person interaction; even introverts do. Isolated people such as babies in an orphanage or the elderly in nursing homes can die from the lack of human interaction. Relationships need more than words and pictures on a screen. People need a physical presence, a high five, a correcting look, a pat on the back.
When people do interact in person, they fear breathing on each other. Masks block smiles and muffle speech—no friendly conversations with strangers. We are isolated shopping machines in a socially distanced crowd.
I enjoy chatting with the check-out clerks. But Plexiglass and masks make it hard to hear each other, and I sometimes give up trying.
Economic downturns always produce more despair, substance abuse, and suicide. The CDC has recorded an increase in drug overdoses this year. Will more people die from despair than from the virus? Who knows?
During the pandemic, the mental health of all demographic groups has deteriorated except for one: people who regularly attend church.
But even this social support system has been restricted.
Spiritual Life Under COVID
People sometimes rely more on their faith communities for their well-being than they do on their families. Being connected to one’s church or synagogue is essential for mental, emotional, and spiritual health. Sadly, some governors see no value in religious fellowship. For example, Nevada imposed stricter restrictions on houses of worship than on casinos.
Don’t they realize that spiritual leaders care more for their flocks than the government does and will go to great lengths to ensure their health? Furthermore, the Christian faith requires that we meet regularly (Hebrews 10:25). It is not a solo faith.
During the three-month shutdown, my church stayed in touch through a Sunday morning Zoom coffee time. Both pastors and about a dozen households joined in for conversation, prayer, and a game by our youth pastor.
Despite this, I missed corporate worship. I couldn’t relate to an online service. Fortunately, in June, we resumed meeting at a limited capacity.
Before and after the service, we visit with each other. For some, this is the only social interaction they have each week. Because some are hard of hearing, we can’t talk socially distanced. For one friend, I must unmask so she can hear me. She didn’t realize how much she relied on lipreading until people wore masks. It’s legal to unmask for the hearing impaired. So far, no COVID cases have been traced to our gatherings.
Even though many of our members are older and are at risk, they come anyway because worshiping with the people of God is more important than avoiding the virus.
Jesus Is the Rock in the Storm
Social science states that those active in their faith tend to be healthier and happier than the average population. Authentic Christians have the hope (hope meaning a reliable expectation, not wishful thinking) that God will bring good out of bad situations (Romans 8:28). Hope is the anchor, the firm foundation in the storms of life for those who follow Christ.
Jesus described this in the parable of the wise and foolish builders:
“Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.” (Matthew 7:24-27 NLT).
This year, I read through the Bible using the Read Scripture app, which incorporates videos from the Bible Project. At the beginning of each book, a video explains the structure and themes of the text. I had no idea the Bible had so much literary form.
While reading through Israel’s history, the prophets’ warnings, and about the fall of Jerusalem, I wondered whether we are witnessing the fall of the United States. Our culture calls evil, good and good, evil (Isaiah 5:20).
Blending good news with the bad, the prophets’ messages offered hope in addition to proclamations of judgment. This passage from Habakkuk 3:17-19 has stuck with me this year:
Though the fig tree should not blossom
And there be no fruit on the vines,
Though the yield of the olive should fail
And the fields produce no food,
Though the flock should be cut off from the fold
And there be no cattle in the stalls,
Yet I will exult in the Lord,
I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.
The Lord God is my strength,
And He has made my feet like hinds’ feet,
And makes me walk on my high places.
Even if disaster and persecution come to America, those who follow Jesus Christ will still have hope for the future. God doesn’t often prevent suffering, but he walks us through it. When the news gets me down, I have to cling to my hope in Christ.
Dear reader, consider: Where do you find hope? Has your source of hope turned out to be shifting sand that has knocked you off your feet? If so, give Jesus a try. When you have him as your Lord and Savior, your life will stand on solid ground.