Did you know that all people are terminally ill? Did you know that there is a 100% mortality rate for people? Did you know that we are all going to walk that road unless the Lord returns in our lifetime? Kubler-Ross was the psychiatrist who noticed and penned the five stages of grief. It was originally an observation for people who found out that they were terminally ill. Why am I spouting this?
I’m not sure about you but the idea of dying, while I have thought about it and how it’s coming eventually, have never really considered that a plague may be the one to do the trick. It changes emotional interest when there’s such urgency in the air. Watching the news increases the reality of it possibly coming close to home sooner than I thought.
During this time of great unease, I’ve watched people and tried to pay attention to how I was reacting as well. What I noticed is that we need grace for ourselves and others just as if we had received that horrific news straight from the doctor after a check-up. I’ve not hit all 5 and perhaps won’t, but I’ve seen a few hit all 5, not necessarily in order, and repeat within a week. So if you are struggling, remember that you are not alone first and foremost. Secondly, God is already in tomorrow no matter what tomorrow holds. There is a great peace in that. Thirdly, we, as children of the light, have an opportunity and privilege to hold someone’s hand through the process (not literally, because eww…germs).
So when you see loved ones or strangers acting out in ways that are troubling, know that they need grace in that moment to feel the possible loss. What are these stages? Denial.” This cannot be happening! I have a cruise planned for spring break! This is just an overreaction and people are stupid. I’m still going!” Anger. “This is unfair and wrong! I have saved and put away for retirement all of my adult life and for what?! Stock market crash= goodbye my plans for the future.” Quick tempers flare. Close quarters don’t help as the processing is no longer done in private but with those you live with. Bargaining is next. “Ok, God, I will serve you by serving others and in return keep me and my family safe from this virus, unemployment, and hunger. That sounds fair, right?” What if God’s ideas are for you to shine in a struggle? Yikes, I’d not thought of that. Depression hits.” Everything is out of my control, whatever I try is worthless, I might as well give up.” Strength is sapped and joy replaced with apathy, worry, and tears.
Eventually, acceptance that we are not in control, that the future belongs in God’s hands and not ours finally hits. But again, I’ve said there is an up and down all-around kind of thing that goes on with grief and fear. We may rinse and repeat at any time. But for now, we have finally come to terms that our physical lives have an expiration date and that the dash between now and then may not be a smooth ride. There is a blessing hidden in all of this. Maybe it feels or sounds trite, but it’s honest. God is found in the struggle. God is looked to when I reach the end of myself. God is thought about. God is talked about. God is sought out. That is actually the best thing that could come out of this because we are all terminal. The doctors and bankers and politicians haven’t given us the time frame yet, but it may not be pretty. Life will not be the same even if we survive the illness. We, in the western world, have been rather preoccupied with our other god. Making it comfortable, beautiful, happy, entertained, served, strong, etc. We’ve been serving ourselves for most of our lives. I’m no different, yet I’m a believer. I believe in the Almighty, Creator, Sustainer of all things, but it kind of sits at the edge of my day. If I’m tired, God will understand my ignoring him. You know, life in the States.
So as we process this journey, have grace, grace for yourself and others. It doesn’t mean someone isn’t a strong Christian if they find themselves in a stage. It’s a process. We are creatures of process and may need the time. Yes, verbally and mentally we can agree that God is in control of what happens, but our emotions might need a minute to play catch-up. I am thankful that God helps us through the process. I am thankful that I have a peace underneath the angst and that emotion will catch up eventually. You still shine as a light even when you are in the midst. People can see the undercurrent of stillness in the waves. God will be glorified, it’s what he does. So my friends, hold on for this ride. Hold on to God, hold on to truth found in scripture, keep speaking the truth, and hold on to your family of faith as we navigate this grace in the storm thing together.