Welcome to Day-Whatever of the COVID-19 Quarantine.
I’m no global pandemic expert. I personally don’t know anyone who is.
(Are you one? If so, send help!)
All I know is that it just keeps coming—the closure updates, the stats, the CDC recommendations. The news changes by the hour, and just when we get our footing, another update comes and we are all unsettled again. We are all trying to figure this out as we go, right?
A few days ago I reached out to you and asked what your biggest struggle is right now as you are facing this weird and unprecedented crisis. Your responses were both candid and moving. I felt the weight of them as I read email after email describing your fears. Then, I took all of them, lifted them up to God, and asked Him to give me something helpful to say to you.
I think He has.
I realize it’s not all bad. Introvert-Sandy doesn’t hate that everything’s been canceled. Lazy-Sandy celebrates yoga pants and a top-knot every single day.
But it’s also hard and scary.
So, here are your struggles as defined by you, with some responses I believe will be helpful.
Question: What is your biggest struggle right now?
1. Guilt for feeling anxious when so many people (now and in past generations) have it worse.
Let’s just get this one out of the way from the outset. I come this against right now, in Jesus’ name. The Enemy would love to heap condemnation and shame on you for being scared. This is no time for misplaced guilt. We serve a good God and a loving Father.
How does a loving Father respond to a scared child? Not by shaming her or guilting her. No. He takes the frightened child in his arms. Listens to what is troubling the child. And then speaks truth and love to calm her fears. God is not rebuking you for being scared. He’s holding you, listening to you, and speaking to you.
2. Loss of routine and normal life
It’s important to name and grieve what we are losing. The simple act of doing so frees up space in our minds to deal with it healthfully and productively. Loss of control over our days and our lives is a legitimate loss. Loss of control over our time, where we can go, who we can see—all of that is real.
Dr. Henry Cloud says that human beings need some sense of control to be mentally healthy. This is why prisons are so terrible—people are stripped of all freedom.
So, yes, while we cannot control where we are going, who we see, or whether or not we can work, we still do have a lot of control. I encourage you to make a list of all the things you can control. Here’s a list I made for myself to get you started.
Things I Can Control Right Now
- Who I follow on social media
- What kind of news and how much of it I take in
- What movies or TV shows I watch
- How I spend my time
- What time I go to bed and get up
- How I respond to the people in my home
- What words come out of my mouth
- What food goes into my mouth
- My thoughts
3. Being separated from loved ones
We were made for community, so this is a valid struggle right now. We can’t see family and friends. We can’t attend church or Bible study. We can go to the gym or meet friends for lunch.
In Jeremiah 29 the nation of Israel was dispersed and couldn’t be together. Look at what God told the Israelites during this time of “social distancing.”
5 “Build homes, and plan to stay. Plant gardens, and eat the food they produce.6 Marry and have children. Then find spouses for them so that you may have many grandchildren. Multiply! Do not dwindle away! 7 And work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare.”
In other words, God told them to keep moving forward, not to pull back, not to be afraid. I believe God would have you do everything you can to stay connected with your people. By phone, by video technology, by email, by social media…however, you can, do it. (What a gift that we have this technology during this time!)
And then God goes on to say,
“But then I will come and do for you all the good things I have promised, and I will bring you home again. 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.12 In those days when you pray, I will listen. 13 If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. 14 I will be found by you,” says the Lord. “I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes. I will gather you out of the nations where I sent you and will bring you home again to your own land.”
Be encouraged. This time of separation from your loved ones will end. And if you look for God in the midst of this, you will find Him.
4. Needing time away from people
Remember the strategies you used when your kids were babies and toddlers and needed you 24/7? Or that time the flu spread through your whole house and you needed to get away from your people but couldn’t leave your people?
Yeah, do that.
Proactively pursue alone time. Close your bedroom door. Take a bath. Send everyone to their bedrooms. Go for a drive. Seriously, just a 15-minute walk outdoors will work wonders on your psyche.
5. Suddenly becoming a homeschool parent/working from home with kids/added work/endless suggestions about how to spend your time
Yep. Many of us prayerfully decided to place our kids in public or private schools and did not sign up to be homeschool parents. It’s overwhelming for all of us coming in at this stage of the game and trying to figure out where they are and what they need. My son has been in private school with academic support for his learning differences since kindergarten. Now he’s in the last quarter of his last year of school. I feel so ill-equipped for this.
Also, my husband runs a local hospital. This means he is working longer hours and is more stressed than ever. All of this means more work for me. (And it also means our chances are very high that he will bring the virus home and spread it to all of us.) Additionally, I work from home.
So, yeah…basically, if you send me an email today suggesting I clean my closets and catch up on my fiction reading, I will unsubscribe.
Let me share with you some things that are helping me and my household right now. These strategies will also help with #4 (your need for space) as well as keeping your home from becoming a COVID-19 Frat House.
- Keeping a routine. Getting up at the same time. Going to bed at the same time. Eating meals together. Having set school and work hours.
- Adjusting my expectations and my work hours. I won’t be able to work when I did or how I did when everyone was gone during the day. But some things are actually better! For example, since I don’t have to get the kids off to school each morning or take them to activities in the evenings, I can use morning and afternoon hours to work.
- Giving everyone a designated space. I have assigned each person their own territory and I’m allowing them to make it their own. This helps everyone feel a sense of control and ownership, and also gives us some privacy. I suggest you look at your house differently. Are there spaces you rarely use? A formal living area, a basement, a spare bedroom, or a porch that can become a kid’s temporary school area? Get creative. Let your people claim their spot, spread out, and be comfortable.
- Taking regular breaks during the day and making kids do the same. I’m taking about five walks per day right now. I regularly make the kids stop and jump on the trampoline with me. We even dug out some of our yard games from the back of the garage and play them together in the late afternoons. Truly, had it not been for this forced quarantine, I would never be playing Corn Hole in the driveway at 4 pm on a Monday with my 18-year-old and my 13-year-old.
- Putting strict limits on screens—especially video games where other people have access to my kids. Keep in mind that the whole country and many parts of the world are on lock-down right now. And that means a whole new crop of creeps on the Internet. Not to add to your anxiety, but be mindful of this and use wisdom. Make sure you have filters in place and restrictions set on their devices. Don’t leave them unattended for hours a day. (I did a whole podcast series about this in October. Listen to Episodes 21-25 of The Balanced MomCast for tons of great info.)
6. Too much information/managing social media and news.
“I would say my biggest struggle is staying close enough to the media to be informed, and far away enough to ward off the mania, fear, and alarm. Some people in my close circle are entrapped in out of balance fear, which gets tiring.”
“How much info is too much? I feel like I need some information about what is happening in my community and the world. And I want to be somewhat connected to others. But the Internet and social media go from not enough to way too much in a swipe. It’s hard.”
As many of you know, I am currently on a one-year social media hiatus. And I just want to emphasize how helpful this is right now to be free from the constant scrolling. At the same time, like you, I still want to be informed about what is happening in my city and in the world.
Here are some things I’d suggest to maintain that balance:
- Choose a trusted news source and stick with that. I actually subscribed a few months ago to USA Today. (Yes, the actual paper—that’s delivered to my house! Remember newspapers?) I assure you, it’s a whole different experience sitting with a cup of tea and reading the paper than it is watching FOX News for days on end or following a series of links into the news feed cesspool. Also, (I’m not an affiliate for USA Today, I promise), but they also have a special newsletter I get through email that is only coronavirus updates. It condenses all the updates from the last 24 hours into one email that comes once a day. Game-changer.
- Limit your time that you will allow yourself to take in information. Give yourself 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes at night and then walk away. Don’t be afraid of missing something. If something major happens, someone in your circle will call you or text you. You won’t miss anything.
- Unfollow and unsubscribe from anything sucking the life out of you. All. Day Long.
7. Decision-making regarding social distancing.
Is it okay to go to my in-laws for dinner? Is it okay to take the kids to the drive through for blizzards just to get out of the house? Is it okay to take my dog to the groomer, are her safety strategies enough? Am I disinfecting enough things when I do go out? Am I overreacting? Am I under reacting? I guess, overall, I am not trusting myself or others to make good decisions. I don’t want to be the reason a loved one or even a stranger gets sick or dies. That weighs heavily on me.
All of this is very valid. So, basically, I would encourage you to follow the current CDC, social distancing, and “shelter-in-place” guidelines as best you can. That means
- If your in-laws are elderly or have an underlying medical condition, don’t go over there for dinner right now. It’s not worth the risk, especially if you have kids. For most of us, we will catch the coronavirus, and we will be sick for a few days or a week, and then we will fully recover. We are trying to stop or slow the spread of the disease so as to not overwhelm our health system, so minimize contact with other people as best you can.
- If you can stay at home, do that.
- If you can do something fun with the kids that doesn’t involve contact with others, do that.
- If anyone has any symptoms at all, do not go out in public.
- Do what you can to strengthen yours immune system. Your best weapons are great nutrition, a full night’s rest, and spending time outdoors in nature.
- Wash your hands. Sanitize surfaces that other people have touched. Use common sense. You know how to do this.
- When in doubt, err on the side of safety.
The rest of these all fall into the “fear and anxiety” category. I’ll list all of them with some direct quotes from you, and then I’ll respond at the end.
7. Trusting God
My biggest concern…maintaining my faith
8. General fear
Right now, I am just scared.
My fear of the unknown and what’s next? Is this the end of life as we know it?
9. Anxiety over the virus itself
How bad will this get? Who will die? A loved one? Me?
How will medical professionals stay well and have enough supplies?
How will I keep teenage kids quarantined and get them to understand seriousness?
What will happen to my kids if I die?
Or any of the other million possibilities…
10. Responding to kids without panic
What do I say to my kids? How much can they handle? How do I model trust in God while still needing to follow the quarantine guidelines?
11. Concern over aging parents, immune-compromised family.
My parents are in an assisted living place and I am not allowed to see them. Both struggle with dementia and depression. This past week was very hard on them. I’m asking friends and family to send mail and call them. I had a very good system in place between myself and a caregiver for my parents plus the rehab they had. All of that has come to a complete halt with no true sight of it ending anytime soon.
I and our youngest son are immune-compromised.
I’ve battled fear over unhealthy family members who have compromised immune systems.
My husband’s biggest problem (while in a medical facility) is isolation. He only sees the person who brings food or meds and therapy.
My sons lost their income. Praying they can find work so they can pay their bills. Financially this will be rough on us as well.
After today no one will be employed in our household. It’s all very concerning.
After this week I’m not sure where the paycheck is coming from.
My husband was planning to retire at the end of May…the money we have spent our life saving for this is now greatly depleted. We don’t have time to wait for a recovery. We will need that money to live on in just a few months.
We are not salaried. Our income depends on our getting back to work. Getting back to work requires human interaction!
Yes, all of that is true. Yes, we are scared for our loved ones, for our finances, for the future, and for the unknown. But let God’s word be the final word.
God’s truth speaks to all this. Most of you reading have been Christians for a long time. You know what His word says. You’ve been reading it and quoting it your whole life.
Now it’s time to put it into practice.
14 Do everything without grumbling or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky 16 as you hold firmly to the word of life.
Filter what is coming out of your mouth. Move through your day without complaining. You have the word of life…now hold to it! You can control what you say and how you say it. This is where the children of God shine. This is what separates us from the world.
4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
The Greek word used for “guard” is a military term that means to protect by a military guard, either in order to prevent hostile invasion, or to keep the inhabitants of a besieged city from flight.
God’s peace will act as a guard to prevent the hostile invasion on your heart and mind when you
- Let your gentleness be evident to all
- Refuse to be anxious
- Be thankful
- Present your requests to God
If you don’t do this already, start writing down how you want to remember today. Mine out every gem from the day and record it. This is like a gratitude journal, only better, because, when COVID-19 has ended, this will be the history you have recorded and what you and your children will remember.
8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
Choose what you will think about. You have control over your thoughts. And then—this is the important part—put God’s word into practice.
10 I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. 11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
Did you know Paul wrote the letter to the Philippians when he was in prison? When all of his rights and freedom and income and normal routines and connection to loved ones had been stripped from him?
This is when he told us to
- Not complain
- Let your gentleness be evident to all
- Refuse to be anxious
- Be thankful
- Present your requests to God
- Control our thoughts
- Put what we know into practice
- Be content
This message has never been more relevant than it is right now.
9 Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. 10 If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. 11 These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.
Jesus wants us to maintain our joy. Again, it’s not just reading these verses. It’s not just hearing me read them on the podcast. It’s not even memorizing them—though that is all awesome.
It’s doing what the verses say. It’s keeping God’s commandments to abide in Him and to allow His word to abide in you.
Back in 2017, God had me camped in John 15:1-17 for a full year. It wasn’t because it took me a year to read it—I read it in about 5 minutes. Neither did it take me a year to understand it—I’m slow, but not that slow.
No, God had me in seventeen verses for a year because it took me a year to learn how to DO IT. These truths of scripture don’t work unless we DO THEM.
I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.
The peace Jesus gives is different from the peace the world gives. The world will have peace when
- The virus is gone
- We resume normal lives
None of that is bad—I’m praying for all this to end, too. But the peace that Jesus offers is the peace that sustains NOW in spite of the circumstances.
15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. 18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Yes, I know for a few of us, work just multiplied and everything is harder. But for most of us, we’ve been given a gift of time, forcing us off the crazy train that, only two weeks ago, had us on the verge of a breakdown.
What will you do with this gift of time/break from the crazy train?
A month-long Netflix binge?
Or diving into God’s word?
Loving your family?
Don’t be foolish.
Don’t waste this month.
Make the most of this opportunity.
(In my Bible, the heading over this portion of scripture says, The Cure for Anxiety.)
These are the words of Jesus:
25 “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? 27 Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?
28 “And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, 29 yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. 30 And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?
31 “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’32 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. 33 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.
34 “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.
God’s got this. And He’s got YOU. Which means you’ve got this! You are his daughter and He loves you.
I’m excited to see everything God does in you as a result of this. I have a feeling it will be more than you ever imagined.
I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.