A Fight for Joy Through COVID-19
I woke up depressed last Saturday. I mean I was down, really down. I was in a not-even-sweetly-joyful-Jan-could-bring-me-out-of-it funk.
I’ve always tended toward the melancholy–though I’ve grown over the years to be less so. But at times darkness still hides His lovely face and I succumb to gloom.
I couldn’t quite put my finger on the cause. I suspect a collection of stay-at-home-order suspects ganged up on me that day. Frankly, my emotions have taken a wilder rollercoaster ride through this time of COVID-coopedupness than I ever expected.
I feel relationally starved. My life revolves around ministering to others. Texts, phone conversations, Facebook messages, Zoom calls and the like get me only so far in my need for connection.
Then there is the ongoing privation of the ordinary means of grace that are not so ordinary to me. I miss singing with God’s people, hearing the word of God preached, feasting at the Lord’s Table, breaking bread with our church family, among other priceless things.
Perhaps I’ve got more ministry idols in need of exposing than I care to explore.
I wonder how many others struggle so?
It took a day or so, but I managed to come out of the nosedive. A week-long postmortem revealed some insights for me about the journey.
Asking Questions of Myself
It involves asking yourself things like: What am I feeling? Why do I feel that way? What am I inclined to do? What will I do instead?
David prodded himself similarly in Psalm 42:5:
Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation.
Those last two questions in Ken’s list are crucial to a successful upward climb out of the pit. What I was inclined to do was somehow veg the whole day. Instead by God’s grace I chose a healthier path.
Doing the Next Thing
Saturday was a work day for me. I was behind in my hours for the week. I didn’t want to do any of it. But I did anyway. Here’s why.
This counsel from Oswald Chambers has served me well over time:
Certainty is the mark of the commonsense life: gracious uncertainty is the mark of the spiritual life. To be certain of God means that we are uncertain in all our ways, we do not know what a day may bring forth. This is generally said with a sigh of sadness, it should be rather an expression of breathless expectation. We are uncertain of the next step, but we are certain of God. Immediately we abandon to God, and do the duty that lies nearest, He packs our life with surprises all the time (emphasis added).
Relishing the Surprises
I finished my work. I felt a bit better, but still lingered in my melancholy.
Then I got this Onesiphorus-like text “out of the blue” from a brother in our church:
“Happy Saturday night! Hope you both are doing well. I wasn’t sure how much you are going into town for supplies. If there is anything I can pick up and deliver for you, let me know. We are doing OK . . . learning to be thankful for things.”
Please understand. In this rural Idaho valley, nobody lives close by! This was a huge offer of kindness. I told him he made my day, especially as I was struggling with the blues.
And that last line of his text about learning to be thankful? What a great reminder to fight for joy with verses like 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18:
16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
It took me years in ministry to learn this lesson.
A counselor once asked me, “What does Curt do for Curt?”
This without-healthy-boundaries caregiver immediately dismissed the validity of the question for the fear of selfishness.
But eventually he came to his senses. He who cares for the interests of others without due care for his own needs eventually ends up unable to care for anyone’s.
Saturday night we ate a good supper. We got a great night’s sleep–still getting used as a preacher to sleeping in on Sunday mornings–way longer than usual! If food and rest were the Lord’s prescription for a depressed prophet, we best apply the same as needed.
By the time Jan and I made our way to an online service Sunday morning, my joy had returned and we worshipped the Lord.
It still wasn’t the same as gathering together with our church family, but it helped frame another week of fighting for joy in the COVID-19 pandemic.
Question: What helps you fight for joy in this difficult season?