Processing a Pandemic

March 13, 2020

I ran into a friend at Walmart this morning, one I hadn’t seen in a while. We hugged in greeting, and each thought at the time, “Oh, whoops, I shouldn’t be hugging people right now!”

When we ran into each other again at the checkout, we hugged again anyway. (Rebels!) And she said she’d realized something the first time we did — the name for this feeling she’d been having. She hadn’t figured it out before — it’s not fear, not anxiety, not worry…it’s grief. 

And that resonated with me. Our pastor sent out an email saying we would have church Sunday, but should refrain from shaking hands or hugging…and he’s right. But it’s sad. To force ourselves to be far from others — it’s right, at this time, it’s a responsible and caring sacrifice to make — and also it’s okay to acknowledge that it’s sad. I think naming what we’re experiencing is important. Helps us process, and takes away some of the power of our emotions over us. When we name things, we can deal with them properly, put them in right perspective, and make our choices based on logic and right understanding.

This is all a lot to process, even for those of us who aren’t afraid. People are tense. People are sad. People are afraid. Stores have lots of empty shelves, and long lines for what’s left. Activities and events are cancelled, many things people have worked hard toward. Some things we just planned to enjoy. (David and I just found out the favorite part of our planned 20th anniversary trip is cancelled — Rend Collective concert — and that’s not til mid-May. And we’ll probably just postpone the whole trip. And I know that kind of thing is happening to a lot of people — we know of someone who cancelled their WEDDING for this weekend!) Sports are suspended indefinitely. And while the school closings don’t affect our family directly, they affect a LOT of people. There are a lot of hard things happening right now.

So. I just want to say, notice what you’re feeling. Process it, preferably in the light of God’s Word, and talking with Him about it. Don’t let your feelings take control (they’re bery-bery-sneaky, they’ll take you right over without asking permission!). Name them. Acknowledge them. Bring them into the light. And then you can deal with them much better.

As I was leaving Walmart, I was thinking about the empty shelves (and the people working hard to stock them where they could), and also about my full bags of groceries, and the fact that I was going to have to work to find room in my freezer and pantry. About my dear friends and their support, and also about the distance we should generally keep for a time. All the good activities we have in our life, and the lack of many of those things right now. (And the fact that most of these are very first-world issues.) And this came to mind: “…I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. …And my God shall supply every need of yours according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:11b-13, 19)

The sacrifices we’re making now (whether forced or by choice) are hard, but worth it — to help protect those who are most vulnerable. That is a worthy thing. It’s not all about us. And God will strengthen us to deal with the plenty and the hunger (even the hunger for all the things we had planned!), and will provide what we need in the meantime (even if not all that we want). May we look to Him in all of these crazy circumstances, and process our feelings about it all in healthy ways, and use what health and supplies we have to help others who are in need.

1 thought on “Processing a Pandemic”

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