This has been an interesting month, to say the least. Jeff and I had two weeks of misery, one week of recovery, and finally, finally, in week four, although we’re still healing from viral pneumonia and needing much more sleep than usual, we’re in a slow resumption of normal life. We’re also very, very aware of the many people who have endured so much worse. Here, I have to send my heart-felt gratitude to so many of you who covered us in prayer, asked God to bring healing, and sent us messages of encouragement and love. That meant more than we can say.
I want to give you a few more details about this time—including the main lesson I took away from it.
All of us have heard about the vast diversity in how COVID-19 plays out: from completely asymptomatic to tragically deadly.
It was very weird to get COVID and realize . . . what Jeff and I are feeling definitely isn’t the mild, “like a cold” version of this virus. And then realize . . . this isn’t even the “like a flu” version. And then realize . . . this is the sickest we’ve ever been with an illness. At the same time that I was recognizing I had so much to be grateful for, it was a little disconcerting to recognize that we were getting sicker and sicker with a virus for which there is no cure. It was even more concerning if I let myself dwell on the potential complications to Jeff, given some chronic pulmonary issues he’s dealt with over the years.
In other words—I was surprised at how much the battle with COVID wasn’t just a fight against the invisible virus invading my body, but a battle against worry. When Jeff’s fever spiked to dangerous levels, I started anxiously wondering what we would do if we couldn’t get it under control. When I went to the ER in severe pain and the doctors suspected pulmonary blood clots, my thoughts spiraled to our friend and team member Naomi who tragically died this summer because of one. (I’m extremely grateful that my case was only pleurisy, an inflammation of the lung lining.) And when both Jeff and I were miserable and contagious for weeks, and unable to do practically anything for our quarantined high-school-Junior son, and our daughter was forced to spend almost the entire Thanksgiving holiday alone at college because she couldn’t come home, it was so easy to worry: what if something happens to the two of us?
I know that probably sounds dramatic. But in the moment, those worries were very real.
Which meant I also had to realize: those worries are a temptation. A spiraling, dark, negative, magnetic temptation that kept wanting to pull me in. And yet the Bible talks much about fighting and fleeing from temptation. So each time my (rather feeble) brain wanted to spiral into the scary “what if” scenarios, it became a really important opportunity to “take every thought captive out of reverence for Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5). As I mentioned in my previous blog, it became a challenge to “think on whatever is lovely” (Phil. 4:8) and try to change my mindset.
And it also became an opportunity to ponder the very real truth that all our worried and anxious thoughts are actually an empty, counterfeit attempt to create a sense of control.
Which we can’t. I think that is one thing the year 2020 has taught many of us: the idea that we are in control is truly just an illusion. We can work, and follow wise practices, and try our best, and “pray without ceasing”—and all of that makes a difference! But in the end, ultimately, we are in the hands of a sovereign God.
Sometimes things get very, very hard, and we end up with an outcome that nobody wanted, whether it is a loved one’s poor health or the closure of a business or disrupted major life events that we can never get back. Sometimes we are spared and blessed for no reason other than God’s unwarranted mercy. But always, when worry comes near, we have to cast our cares on the One who is in control and trust that He loves us with an everlasting love.
We are in His hands. That is my main lesson from COVID this year.