I gave birth to our fifth child the day before the world shut down in March of 2020. Ben and I held Auggie and peacefully packed our bags, chatting with the postpartum nurses the day I was discharged. Once we returned home, our daughter Sarah came home from school and didn’t go back until six months later for the 2020-2021 school year.
It was a perplexing, discouraging time for most of us, as we attempted to navigate the dreaded “new normal” everyone in the media wrote and spoke about. We were told to hunker down for the sake of universal safety. No one really knew what we were battling with the COVID-19 pandemic.
As I attempted to adjust our family to our new life with another baby in the home, everything outside our four walls seemed eerily surreal, as if in another realm. There were many days and nights I would scroll news articles, brow furrowed, concern rising in my heart.
It was clear that most people were well-intentioned, but, as with most things these days, chose to polarize their views about the pandemic. And then everything, once again, became political, rather than practical. I, along with many others, never questioned the validity of the pandemic, nor the importance of practicing hygiene and distancing from others, as we all cautiously skirted around one another for fear of acquiring what seemed like The Plague.
But there were also moments I worried we, as a society — maybe even worldwide — were taking the isolation and fear too far. God did not create us to live alone, but always in relationship. Even hermits are intimately united with the Lord. Because our hearts were designed for community, I began to question what the long-term consequences of prolonged shutdowns and reclusiveness might be upon our mental and spiritual wellbeing.
The counselor in me realized that we would likely be looking at cases of chronic grief disguised as depression, increased suicide rates, higher anxiety diagnoses (especially with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), more cases of substance abuse, and a distancing from God due to lack of ability to publicly worship for a time. As a result, the fear we carried remained constant, or even grew more prominent, while our previous growth toward trusting God and His provision withered significantly.
I write this as a generalization, but it certainly applies to my own interior life, and I have spoken candidly with others about the effects of the ever-changing metrics surrounding the pandemic have been upon them, as well. Even casual conversations with our associate pastor led me to understand that he had counseled many people who suffered from severe depressive episodes directly attributed to the mass panic in the world.
Marriages became strained under the pressure of becoming all things to all people — working from home, juggling domestic duties, sharing the responsibility of caring for their children’s academic needs while doing their best to comfort them in their emotional distress and worries. In turn, many of us internalized our own emotions, too busy trying to survive.
Every day, God asks each of us, “Do you trust me?” It was a question I recall vividly the week before I gave birth to our daughter, Sarah, whom I didn’t know at the time had a rare and complex craniofacial condition. I never wanted a child with a disability, mostly because I was afraid of losing the child to death, but Jesus asked me then — as he does now, as he does to all of us now — “Do you trust me?”
It’s become a cliché to hear that all we need to overcome our gargantuan doubts or the questions and confusion that infiltrate our thoughts is to simply “trust God.” Trust is actually a radical implementation of the space where faith and hope meet – faith in the sense that we are confident that God loves and provides for us, hope in the sense that we believe in the “something greater” we cannot yet see in the murky waters of dismal everyday life.
My hope is that the aftermath of the pandemic will bring to our awareness the importance of introspection and reflection, thus leading us to greater reliance upon God when we have no answers to the big questions we face, both individually and as a society. We will not know the extent to which we have been afflicted by what we experienced, perhaps for years or decades, but what we can know is that we have survived the worst of it so far. And every day, we can arise anew, greet the sunrise, and thank God for His grace that carries us the rest of the way.