As I write this, I’m sitting on my back step with my laptop perched on my knees. The birds are singing, the slender branches of the backyard trees are blanketed in small green buds, and the sound of children laughing tumbles through the air from a couple yards away. These little foretastes of spring are starting to crop up everywhere.
At the same time, a feeling permeates the air that reminds us this isn’t a normal springtime afternoon. The sidewalks and the park down the block are eerily empty. Children aren’t at school. And the familiar echoes of sirens in the distance now bring each of our minds back to the very same thing.
We’re living in the midst of a pandemic.
Time keeps marching on, but our rhythms and routines have stopped in their tracks. Winter has gone, and spring is bursting to life in the middle of shared grief, death, and despair. We wave to our neighbors, but we don’t dare get too close. We call our vulnerable loved ones while mourning the fact that hugs and family dinners are far away. It feels like we’re watching the world as we know it crumble, and we have no idea how long this will last.
Let’s be honest with ourselves—this season of life is not an easy one to live through, and it’s not an easy one to process. If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably filled the last few weeks with hours of distraction—whether that took the shape of scrolling through news and social media, spring cleaning, watching reruns, or feeding the never-ending urge to stay busy.
But when we fill these uncomfortably empty days with endless tasks and mindless scrolling, we rob ourselves of the opportunity to slow down and process more deeply what this season of life is stirring in our hearts. When we busy ourselves all day, we miss life-giving opportunities for pause, reflection, and growth. And we deprive ourselves of the grace and slowness we need now more than ever.
I’ve realized I need to begin to process the pandemic differently. If you’d like to join me, here are a few affirmations that can help us approach this season in a way that offers ourselves (and others) the grace and patience we so desperately crave.
We Don’t Have to Keep Up With the News
Until this week, I believed that keeping such a close eye on the daily headlines was an act of wisdom and obedience. I believed that if we were going to make it through this, and to help fight this, then I couldn’t let any crucial detail slip by me. I thought I needed every last fact at my disposal.
But I began to feel overwhelmed by the dread, sadness, and fear that riddles those posts and news broadcasts. And though it’s responsible to stay informed, I realized that when we let it dominate our thoughts and attention, it’s impossible to restore the sense of peace and normalcy that our minds and bodies need right now. Plus, the stress inevitably creeps into the way that we feel—it leaves us wired but tired, dragging and drained—and it ultimately weakens our immunity. Let’s be kind to our minds and be gentle to our bodies by reminding ourselves that it’s okay to place healthy limits on the media we’re consuming.
We Don’t Have to Prove Our Productivity
Holding ourselves to unrealistic standards of productivity is never healthy, and it especially isn’t doing us any good right now. I’ve seen endless posts about quarantine goals and social distancing bucket lists, and while there’s nothing wrong with weaving a healthy amount of work into our days, we must remember that creating unnecessary, overwhelming busyness will only leave us burnt out and exhausted.
Now more than ever, we need the grace of slowness and space. With these present circumstances, our minds are already weary and our bodies are already run down, so the greatest gift we can give ourselves right now is rest and gentleness. Now is not the time to prove ourselves—it is the time to care for ourselves the best we can.
We Don’t Have to Hide Our Grief
As our regular social connections have disappeared, some of our trusted lines of communication have also broken down. Many of us are feeling not only physically isolated but also alone in our fears and sadness. We’re left hiding out in a state of grief—whether that’s mourning the loss of our rhythms and routines or endlessly fearing for a loved one who has or could become gravely ill.
It’s not difficult to creep into shame about our feelings, especially when we know there are so many people out there who have it worse than we do. But giving ourselves space and grace for our grief is one of the most healing things we can do. Don’t sit in it alone. Instead, call a friend or sit down with your family and start an open conversation about the hard things of this season. Vulnerability and togetherness heals.
We Don’t Have to Resist Joy
When the world groans, sometimes we begin to believe we can’t feel joyful. We might dare to think it’s insensitive to the tragedy and pain around us or in our own lives, or even that it’s evidence of denial. But those sentiments couldn’t be further from the truth.
Finding joy in the midst of broken things must be our lifeline. We weren’t meant to stay and dwell inside the pain forever. We were made to be drawn into hope, restoration, and glory. This is the refrain of human history, and it brings us ever nearer to the heart of God. Some days, cultivating joy might look like laughter with family or cooking a colorful, healthful meal. Other days, when the grief runs deeper, it might only look like clinging to the promises of God.
Most Importantly, We Don’t Have to Exempt Ourselves From Grace
Though it’s a bit counterintuitive given the immense time and space we have on our hands, now is not the time to hold ourselves to a standard we can’t keep. We watch the news, we look around our own communities, and we have compassion for those who are stretched, for those who are hurting, for those who are fighting. But when we look inward, we’re tempted to see only our present failures—the ways we can’t help, the ways we’ve wasted our time, the ways we’ve worried too much or prayed too little. But now is not the time to exempt ourselves from the grace we offer elsewhere.
Now is the time to hold fast, and now is the time to lean in. Now is the time to slow down, to unplug, to let ourselves feel what we must feel, and to let ourselves work and help joyfully in the ways we are able, without ruthlessly demanding too much. Now is the time to offer love, patience, and grace—to our communities, to our families, and yes, even to ourselves.
Above all, now is the time to know we won’t endure this season perfectly. And now is the time to remember that’s something we were never meant to do.