I remember the feeling of dread the day we were all told to stay home and stay safe. We were told it would be two weeks and the virus would be gone. That was two years ago.
Like so many of you, optimism over the 'only two weeks' turned to disconcertment as two weeks turned into two months. Vacation plans were being pushed back. Our church services went virtual only. Many people began working from home. Everyone had to learn to Zoom to virtual meetings. Suddenly, kids were doing remote learning and parents were left to learn along with their kids, some while also working in the other room.
As COVID numbers climbed and the death toll increased, fear and panic set in for many. Fear of getting COVID, fear of the future, fear of no supplies (who will ever forget the 'Great Toilet Paper Shortage'?), fear of a complete economic collapse. Panic in the midst of unemployment, missed mortgage payments, and uncertainty of what the future would bring.
The mental health crisis climbed as months passed and today there are quadruple the number of people needing services than ever before. Initially, students were a target concern as some just could not handle the isolation, lack of socialization, sudden death to sports and extracurricular activities, and everyone forced to live in the same space day after day with no reprieve. It wasn't long until a significant percentage of now stay-at-home parents began exhibiting symptoms, as the pressure increased to be all things to all people. Senior citizens also experienced a significant increase in mental health symptoms, as they were quarantined over concerns of risk to their physical health.
Proverbs 16:9 says "We can make our plans but the Lord determines our steps." That is an understatement with respect to this pandemic. What is our response to be then, when two weeks becomes two years, and we may be impacted for possibly another year (or more)?
We must adjust. It is that simple. We must trust that the new path we are on is good and that the world is not spinning wildly out of control. God is still on the throne. In Isaiah 55 we are taught that His ways are not our ways, His plans are not ours. While it may look as though there is no rhyme or reason for the Lord to allow the pandemic to continue, He has His reasons.
Making the necessary adjustments will ward off depression, feelings of isolation, hopelessness, and despair. We have to believe that no matter what impact and changes this pandemic has brought to our specific household, good will come from it. Romans 8:28 reminds us that the Lord will work all things together for our good.
Jeremiah 29:11 is a well-known, perhaps over-quoted verse that I personally love and draw comfort from. "For I know the plans I have for you" declares the Lord, "Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you a hope and a future."
I have to admit, things looked (still look?) pretty bleak, looking through the natural eyes. Yet, I focused my eyes on the Lord and began to see opportunities instead of defeat. Moreover, I began to step into every opportunity. The end result of the once promised two weeks, now two years, are things like a pantry stocked with food I grew and harvested and preserved. A growing comfort level with virtual meetings and conferences and using digital tools and platforms. More manuscripts written and being finalized for release.
Yet, I grieve that we could not freely travel to see kids and grandkids in different states. We couldn't hop on a plane to do a missions trip. We couldn't go anywhere without a mask in my state. I long to have life go back to 'the way we were'. Still, I know deep in my heart that the Lord has a better plan.
Lessons Learned from our Two Week Year
I doubt we will go back to our pre-pandemic lives in many respects but am slowly accepting the reality that the pandemic thrust us forward into a future some of us did not want to embrace. I know many employers who have no plans of bringing the office workers back to a common building any time soon, if ever. Churches have embraced live streaming and will continue offering this option to those who cannot attend in person. Virtual meetings have saved immense commute time and have allowed distance to no longer be a factor in attendance. I doubt we will eliminate the use of Zoom or other platforms moving forward. People have learned the difference between wants and needs and found they could live well on much less.
It's been a long two years. We've made it through. As we move into Year 3 of the pandemic, it is my prayer that you are able to rise above the challenges and adjust as needed. How? Simply put your trust in the one who orders our steps and doesn't need our permission to change our plans.
We are living what will become history for generations to come, as people remember this pandemic being similar to those prior. We will all look back on this time in our lives and agree 'It was the best of times and the worst of times'.
May the Lord bless you and keep you through this time. Dr. Mel Tavares Feb. 22, 2021