April 6, 2020

by Jenna Britt

The thought of people around us dying is a terrifying thought. We all know that death is a part of life, but we do not usually spend a great deal of time thinking about it. Yet most of us are tuning in to a news station at least once a day right now to hear the death toll that COVID-19 has taken in different parts of the world, different parts of the country, and different parts of our state. It’s a pandemic, the likes of which we will probably not see again in this century. It’s new and unknown and unpredictable. And it’s scary.
When Bryan and I first started on the journey of his unknown disease, meeting with doctor after doctor to understand it’s nature, the prognosis, and why he was suddenly unable to hold oxygen in his bloodstream or inflate his lungs, it felt surreal. Life got turned completely upside down, and no one could explain it to us or offer us any viable path to take through it. But we learned some things during those first couple years of illness that are impossible to learn in any type of “normal” life situation; this knowledge and understanding can only be forged by trials. 
I believe we have a similar opportunity for growth in this present crisis, and I know the Lord wants to encourage us all to take heart. 
We ALL like to see the path in front of us before we take a step. And when possible, wisdom would tell us to do exactly that! But living by faith means sometimes we have to take a step before we know where our foot will land. 
And so we take that step.
And we take the next step.
And we keep on doing that until we grow a little more accustomed to trusting the Lord with all our unknowns- with facing our feelings of fear, sadness, confusion, and helplessness; and asking Him to show us what to do with them – and we do this until we finally land in a space where the path becomes a little clearer again, and perhaps we reach a different season of life where we have a reasonable sense of knowing where we’re walking. But sometimes that doesn’t happen for a long time, and our ONLY security is knowing that the One whose hand we are holding will not let us slip and fall. He is there for every part of the journey, and we can let him do the heavy lifting when we can’t see anything around us but fog. He calls us to Himself, to a great love that gives us unexplainable peace even in the midst of chaos and heartbreak. He sees the big picture that we cannot see, and He knows we aren’t even capable of handling such knowledge. And He doesn’t ask us to. 
One of my favorite books is The Hiding Place, by Corrie Ten Boom, who survived the Holocaust but lost many of her family members and friends during it. There’s a passage in this book where Corrie recounts a time she and her father were riding on the train together when she was 10 or 11 years old, before things in the country got really bad. She had read a line of poetry in school that she didn’t understand, and she knew she couldn’t ask her questions at home without all of her aunts joining in the discussion. Corrie had a special relationship with her father, and she took any chance she could get to have time with him alone.

And so seated next to my father in the train compartment, I suddenly asked, "Father, what is sex-sin?"
He turned to look at me, as he always did when answering a question, but to my surprise he said nothing. At last he stood up, lifted his traveling case off the floor and set it on the floor.
Will you carry it off the train, Corrie?" he said.
I stood up and tugged at it. It was crammed with the watches and spare parts he had purchased that morning.
It's too heavy," I said.
Yes," he said, "and it would be a pretty poor father who would ask his little girl to carry such a load. It's the same way, Corrie, with knowledge. Some knowledge is too heavy for children. When you are older and stronger, you can bear it. For now you must trust me to carry it for you.”
“And I was satisfied,” she writes in the book. “More than satisfied—wonderfully at peace. There were answers to this and all my hard questions—for now I was content to leave them in my father’s keeping.”
As Corrie faced concentration camps and experiences too horrible to imagine, she said “it was father’s train case once again. Such cruelty was too much to grasp, too much to bear.” And she would cry out, “Heavenly Father carry it for me!” And she would let Him do exactly that.
So we must let the Lord carry our fears and worries and questions during this time where so many are sick and dying or living on their last available paycheck.
One of the most important things I learned during the first couple years of Bryan’s illness- and something I still continue to learn- is how to experience competing emotions and thoughts and allow myself to be okay with that. One of the illustrations we use for helping people in grief counseling is that of holding a hot coal in one hand and an ice cube in the other. The brain struggles with this; it doesn’t know what to focus on. We sometimes think we have to choose. But that really isn’t the case. We just might need to focus on one for a minute, then focus on the other, and back and forth it goes. They might not be able to register at exactly the same time, but they can still both register.
And so it is with emotions and varying circumstances.
At the start of Bryan’s illness, when we realized we would just be taking home the new machines and equipment and then told to just live the best we could, I wanted to know how in the world I would ever be able to be both heavy-hearted- filled with sadness for Bryan’s pain and his sudden change of ability- and also able to celebrate life with our children and enjoy their laughter and happiness? How could I possibly feel such opposite things at the same time and actually be present with either feeling? Was it being untrue to Bryan for the kids and me to still go out and do things that he couldn’t? Would I hurt the kids if I didn’t learn to do exactly that? Where was the fairness in it all, and what were we to do? I felt such deep sorrow over the family member who was sick, and also grief at what that meant for all of us as a family; but at the same time, there were small children to be raised who were not sick. I knew it would take courage and faith to be present with the laughter and free-spirited, adventurous nature of my children and also to keep in touch with the feelings Bryan and I were needing to face and process and feel together. And I wasn’t sure I could do that.
So it is during this time of quarantine, with so many facing trauma and with such widespread panic and sorrow all around us. Is it okay for us to still be happy while working out in our lawn? To smile and turn our face towards the sun when there are people dying by the thousands? Shouldn’t we all be sad all the time, or glued to the t.v. in case somehow our worry and sadness can help ease that of others? That is not what I find when I look at the lives of the early Christians. Of course there are times when we will be filled with grief and sorrow. Those times are often when we draw closest to the Lord and seek His face the most. But when I look at the early church, I find people who were determined to take joy in simple blessings and who went on singing praises even when locked in jail cells. I see people who stood alongside each other in their times of grief and sorrow but who also had a firm grasp on HOPE that springs eternal. It’s the idea of “and/both” rather than “either/or”. We can be devastated for the sorrows around us and still grateful for the comfort of our Father. We can be happy that our legs are strong enough to take us on a walk and also sad about all the places they can’t take us during this time of quarantine. And in all situations, we can take everything we’re thinking and feeling to the Lord, and we can KNOW He is able to handle it. God’s got this. Whether we can make any sense of it or not, He is God and He is able. His thoughts are so far above ours, and his ways are beyond our understanding. 
So take heart, dear friends. In all things, the Lord of the universe is still in control, and He is working in each of us to do great things. There is beauty in the process! I truly believe that learning to live in peace even with the waters raging all around us is possibly the most important lesson in faith we - and our children-- could possibly have.
Dr. Jenna Britt, LPC/MHSP

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Jennifer Holloway - April 6th, 2020 at 9:38am

The space in between is the sweet spot and learning to be content in the pause is what is getting my family through. I love this wisdom Jenna! Just what we all needed to read ❤️

Brenda Knox - April 6th, 2020 at 7:45pm

So beautiful, Jenna. I couldn’t help but cry, but I think I needed permission to cry. I love you and your precious family, so much. Thank you.

Robin Shelton - April 6th, 2020 at 8:44pm

Oh how I do so love you Jenna! Thank you for this! 💗