How Are You Responding to Adversity?
The days that we are living in are rare and powerful. There are only a few times in history that the entire globe has faced the same crisis and all the challenges that it brings. Such adversity has soundly shaken our daily lives and turned things upside down. It is amazing to witness how each person and each nation is choosing to respond and act in this season called the COVID-19 Pandemic.
I have lived through life-altering adversity a few times in my life and I am amazed once again by my own journey through a range of emotions and actions in this current scenario. I have struggled anew with my tendency to fall into fear. Like you, I am learning how to live in readily changing circumstances. Yet, I have determined to grow in this season – to make some improvements I did not have time to pursue before this mess slowed life down. I am also learning the importance of stepping up to lead in ways new to me and grasp on to opportunities that did not exist before.
In our location, this global crisis began to personally impact our lives in mid-March. First, a cousin of mine contracted the virus, wound up in ICU and almost lost her life. A month has passed, and she is still in the hospital recovering. Watching her sons and their families struggle through this without having physical contact with her has been incredibly sobering. Then in that same week she was hospitalized, our state quickly went to Stay at Home and self-distancing measures. Schools and businesses closed. Life drastically changed almost overnight. My husband is in the home construction industry and in Montana was able to continue working. Financially this has been a great blessing. Yet that nagging little question “Is he bringing the virus home with him today?” rears its ugly head each evening, creating its own brand of stress. Our personal trust in God’s protection is indeed our daily reality.
That brings me to the question of the day. I find myself asking this on a regular basis, as I am sure you are too. How well am I dealing with and responding to this great adversity? This is a good and healthy question, because how I am thinking and living through this adversity day by day is indeed a choice. I am learning that the importance of this daily choice is beyond crucial for all of us. How we are choosing to respond and live in this time of crisis determines not only our well-being today, but also how well we will transition into life as our homes, businesses, churches, communities, states, and nations move forward.
Adversity is the Great Separator
Adversity will always serve to separate the wheat from the chaff. It will make or break individuals, marriages & families, communities of faith, and so on. Adversity will reveal the weak from the strong, the fear-filled from the leaders, and the wavering from the committed. A time like the one we are in will separate those who give up easily from those who will choose to persevere. The choices we are making right now will determine our outcome this week, this month, this year…and long into the future.
Choices. We indeed have choices right now. Israel’s King Solomon penned it well in Proverbs 24: 10-12.
“If you slack off on a day of distress, your strength is small indeed. Yes, rescue those being dragged off to death—won’t you save those about to be killed? If you say, “We knew nothing about it,” won’t he who weighs hearts discern it? Yes, he who guards you will know it and repay each one as his deeds deserve.”
Here’s where our life of faith in Messiah gets real, friends. We do have a choice to make and right now it is one we need to make every day. Our options have been the same for humans since our time as fallen creatures on earth began. The choice of how you and I position ourselves is entirely ours to make.
- Living in Fear I call this the danger zone. There is a big difference between choosing to be aware of the threat COVID-19 truly is and live wisely versus becoming obsessed with stockpiling, constantly checking the infection and death stats, watching every news update, and freaking out over social media posts. The worst-case scenarios are those who have taken on a personal mission of insisting that everyone they know also succumb to living in fear. Following guidelines to protect our health is a choice to be wise. Hunkering down to the point of refusing to leave your house even to check the mailbox reveals you may have allowed a spirit of fear to take root in your household. Time to get rid of that sucker and regain control of your heart and mind. There are others that go down the path of revealing conspiracies and the ungodly motives of some our leaders. Though there are indeed some prophetic and politically based realties in that arena, please keep in mind that not everyone around you handles that thought process wisely or well. For those prone to paralyzing fear, this only causes more fear. Know what you can handle and do not let such awareness breed deep fear in you. Also be aware that your constant proclamations might be doing more damage to others than good. With some you will need to politely make your point, then move on.
- Living to Learn Many of us begin in fear, but at some point, make the transition to learning how to live in a our “new normal”. This is healthy! You are choosing to separate emotion from reality, beginning to reason and determine how to keep on living your life. This is a very personal and challenging process. You must determine what you cannot control and let go of it. You also must determine what you can control and then do it. Things like how much news to watch, what genre of movies and books to read, getting outside to go for a walk or simply sit to enjoy the sunshine, choosing healthier eating habits, learning how to work from home, becoming a good teacher for your children, establishing new patterns of shopping, learning how to use services like Zoom with family and friends so you can see their faces while chatting with them, etc. Perhaps even more important is the issue of how you maintain the health of your faith. Join in on online services provided by your church. Be as consistent as possible with Bible reading and prayer time. If that hasn’t been a part of your life before, now may be the perfect opportunity to create some new faith-strengthening habits. Observe the Sabbath in your home. Adjust your faith practices – do not neglect them. Choose to persevere in your relationship with God despite everything crazy going on around us. Be confident in choosing to learn new, positive ways of doing both what you need to do and what you enjoy doing. These actions are the best way to fight off fear and move forward!
- Choosing to Grow When you make the choice to grow in adversity, life is going to get awesome! This choice will make you a better and more powerful person. Even your surroundings are going to improve. Here are some signs you have stepped into the growth realm. You have pulled up your boots, rolled up your sleeves and established a new daily routine for you and your household. No more PJ’s all day for you and yours! You are revaluating your life purpose and mission. Priorities and goals are being adjusted as well. You are reading books you’ve wanted to read and tackling home improvement projects that you’ve put off for years. You may have lost your job or career position, but you are not moping around. You are actively looking for what will be next. You may even be considering getting more training or education. With time on your hands, you might be taking some online training or mentoring courses. Your spouse is getting some well-deserved attention and love is being recharged! With renewed intent and purpose, you are taking time to get know your children for the unique individuals that they are. Bravo! You have just surpassed a whole lot of other folks right now.
- Choosing to Lead These are the people that are going to come through this adversity and shine. Let’s go back to that passage in Proverbs again. “If you slack off on a day of distress, your strength is small indeed. Yes, rescue those being dragged off to death—won’t you save those about to be killed? If you say, “We knew nothing about it,” won’t he who weighs hearts discern it? Yes, he who guards you will know it and repay each one as his deeds deserve.” You have chosen to take these words to heart! In this day of distress, you are not slacking off at all. You refuse to put your head in the sand and pretend you don’t know what is going on around you. You are choosing not to become a victim of the times. You will make this adversity work for you rather than against you. You are choosing to lead the way through this challenge, not simply existing to survive…and certainly not retreating. You are choosing to become stronger, more passionate, and more focused. You are choosing to ask the right questions of yourself and those you lead. Our world is changing forever, and you are up to the challenge! As a Child of God and Citizen of His Kingdom, you are convinced that He who weighs your heart and guards you will reward you, because your heart and actions are focused on saving those who are being dragged off to be killed by their fears and the uncontrollable circumstances around them. Leaders know that their talent for being problem solvers must rise to the surface. Be it in ministry or business, they and their team must provide solutions to the rapidly arising needs around us. Working together, they must find the light and hope amid our current adversity and then lead others toward that. Personal growth and sacrifice are a given for all involved. Leaders will rise to the occasion or die trying!
Choosing to Lead is Crucial in the Body of Messiah
Yeshua taught us that to lead we must serve. Serving has many faces. Some are already in a position of leadership in the church, and thus in the community. Many of these are seasoned leaders, busy at the task of identifying where and how they can help. New leaders will and should emerge as things progress. For all of them, things are upside down not only at home but in the church too. As places of worship begin to re-open for Sabbath services and provide encouragement and hope to their communities, leaders are dealing with how to guard the health of their staff and congregation. How do we social distance during a worship service? Do we operate the children’s ministry? What services can we provide through our kitchen and how do we do that safely? The list of questions is mind boggling and filled with details. But these are not the crucial questions that ALL in the church need to be asking – and being diligent in finding the answers. Our questions should be:
- What can we learn as a congregation in this adversity?
- Are there new skills and technology we need to acquire?
- What can we do to meet the challenging needs arising in this given situation?
- How can we act boldly and wisely, with courage, in the face of this crisis?
- How can we turn the bad in this adversity into good?
- How do we create the most positive influence possible in the community we call home?
- What are the opportunities this adversity is opening to us and which do we take on?
Let’s also get practical on this topic for the average congregant. At this time all of us must be willing to lead in any way that we can to help meet the ever-increasing needs. How can you lead by serving in your congregation right now?
- Start at home. Determine with your family members what the needs are and design a plan on how to tackle them together. Everyone needs to contribute to helping keep home safe, sound, and functioning. Yes, there will be emotions and conflicts. Here is your chance for real growth by learning how to work through and resolve your issues. If you need counsel, get it! Leading at any level in the church is much easier when things are running as smoothly as possible at home. I promise you that your family can come through this challenge stronger and more united than ever. The key is choosing to listen, contribute, deal with your issues, and make it happen!
- At church, start by asking those in current leadership “How can I serve?”. Offer your talents and ideas to meet the needs your congregation is dealing with. Then follow instructions! Keep in mind, leaders always have the full picture of the congregation at the forefront of their thinking and planning. They usually have a good handle on what needs to be done, in what order, and by whom. Part of leading at any level is to become excellent at being able to participate in decision making and then following instruction once a decision is made. Set the example so others can learn to step up in this manner too!
Things to consider helping your church with in this COVID-19 scenario:
- Checking in on the elderly and those at high risk. Lead a team that will check on these folks on a regular basis. Are they healthy and safe? Do they need some shopping, or an errand run for them? They may simply need someone to talk to for a few minutes each day.
- Cleaning and sanitizing the church building. Lead a team that will help with cleaning and sanitizing all surfaces in the sanctuary, classrooms, and bathrooms between services and events. This is a huge new reality for protecting the congregation right now…and the usual housekeeping folks are going to need a lot of help to keep up with the new demands.
- Building and Grounds Care: Think about this! Often it is the retired men and women (over age 65, often with underlying health problems) that take on the roles of repairs, plumbing issues, decorating, etc. Because of social distancing and health concerns, they may not be able or want to do these things right now. You have an opportunity to step in to meet these particularly important needs.
- Be a problem solver – not a complainer! Should you see an issue that has slipped through the cracks or you are dissatisfied with how things are playing out in the church during this crisis, rather than a complaint, bring your concern with a solution to your leaders. Also be willing to help make a solution happen. (Example: Don’t like the color of the new wall? Great! Make your suggestion, and if it is approved, be willing to do the painting too.) Keep in mind, church leaders are juggling a whole new set of balls that they have not had to deal with in the past. They are on a steep learning curve now, making decisions and quick adjustments to meet the guidelines local health authorities and government officials are giving to them. Be gracious and patient! This is tough time for all of us.
Strange and Unconventional
Perhaps it is strange and unconventional to say that I am excited about today and our future. I truly am. I am one who hopes that life never returns to the old normal. Yes, I do want to go back to eating out with friends, getting the kids back to school, being able to bump into a friend while shipping and then stand around for 15 minutes catching up with each other. I miss Sunday afternoons with my sister and her family. And I would love for my children and grandchildren to be able to travel in from out of state to visit without having to quarantine for 14 days. That is not the normal that I want to leave behind.
The old normal I do want to leave behind is the stunted version of me living in the deeply rutted routine of how I was thinking and lamely trying to do life, ministry, and business. I want what I am learning to stick. I want the growth I am experiencing to reshape me, my future, and the future of my children and grandchildren. I want to become skilled at seeing new opportunities no matter how difficult life is, then grab on and make good come out of it all. I think we all need to be better at that. I also hope with all my heart that we walk away from this time of adversity, no matter how long it lasts, with a greater appreciation for life and the Lifegiver. I hope that we will not speed our existence back up to the crazy pace we had before and lose the preciousness of spending quieter, more creative time with those we love.
This adversity called COVID-19 will indeed continue to separate out the great from average, the magnificent from the mundane. We hold the power of that choice in our own hands. May we each choose wisely.