The “new” normal is no longer new.
It’s very old. And getting older as headlines change daily. The news overwhelms us with pandemic fears, riots, protests, rumors of foreign and national conspiracies, natural disasters, and… until we are thoroughly depressed.
Then there’s our family. We are tired of one another. Tired of being cooped up with ever-present toddlers or mad teenagers. Tired of trying to work from home with so many interruptions. Tired of our spouse. Tired of loneliness. Tired of ourselves.
As the Pandemic drags on it’s hard to make decisions. Life has become a roller coaster. Things look good one day and we’re on a high; the next day there’s a plunge. School might open or it might not and if it does the schedule may be different or it may change next week. Churches struggle with when and how to open. Governors understandably flip flop on how best to proceed. Wedding plans change. There’s not much certainty. Not much we can count on.
There is too much going on!
Consider 4 things that will help:
1. Recognize that we are living in a season of ambiguity.
Most of us don’t like ambiguity, uncertainty. Most of us like to have a plan. We like to know what and who we can count on. We value certainty more than unwanted surprises. We’d rather have a smooth life instead of a roller coaster. (Ok, some of you love roller coasters, but you wouldn’t want to live on one!)
I have realized that I don’t like ambiguity. It is unsettling. It makes me anxious. By nature I’m a planner. I like to be in control. And I’m not.
Recently I said to myself, “Susan you don’t like living in this world that seems out of control, but perhaps God might want to speak to you through this situation.”
In asking Him for wisdom to see some new things I began to be reminded at a deeper level how much I want to be in control. I want to fix everyone and everything, including me. In reality I wondered if I just want to be God. I have lots of ideas for how I think He should fix the mess we are in.
In so many ways I’m like Eve. I want something I’m not supposed to have. It is uncomfortable to see that my sin is much worse than I imagined. It is not fun to see a deeper side to my own arrogance. The question becomes, Am I willing to let go and really trust him? But Lord, I whisper “what if…”
And He answers back, I will be with you. I am Immanuel. I am above all the “what if’s” and “if only’s.” At the crux of my relationship with Him this is what matters. He will never leave me or you. He is perfect goodness.
2. Distinguish between disappointment and discouragement.
We and our kids have been hit with disappointments. My granddaughter can’t have the wedding she dreamed of and what she can have changes week to week. It’s hard to plan. A child missed a college graduation, another a high school graduation. A friend is dying, and friends and family can’t be there. A job is lost.
We all are experiencing disappointments and deep sadness. It’s normal. Jesus himself was full of grief when his friend Lazarus died. He wept. He was disappointed when his best friend Peter denied he even knew him and left him right when he needed his support. (He foretold his denial, but I imagine Jesus still felt sad.) It helps to look at the life of Jesus and recall His disappointments. He has experienced everything that we have, and he understands. (See Hebrews 2: 17-18; Hebrews 4:14-16; Psalm 147:5)
Disappointment is normal.
Run to Jesus and tell Him how you are feeling. Share your sadness with Him. Receive His comfort, the comfort of your heavenly Father who “gets you” and loves you more than you can imagine.
Discouragement on the other hand is different. Discouragement begins when we wallow in disappointment for too long. It has been said that discouragement is the devil’s greatest weapon because it is so subtle.
Discouragement might sound like this:
- I don’t like my spouse right now. He doesn’t meet my needs. There’s someone else who is better for me. (temptation)
- That “other” mother has it all together. Her kids are doing well. She’s enjoying this time. She accomplishes so much. And I, well… (comparison)
- I don’t even like my child at this moment. He (or she) is driving me crazy. (temporary feelings, frustraton — a loss of perspective)
- My friend isn’t handling social distancing the way I think she should. She should… (a critical spirit)
Each one of these feelings discourages us. It will help to recognize where they are coming from and tell the enemy to flee. James says, “resist the devil and He will flee from you.’ (James 4:7).
Making a distinction between disappointment and discouragement will enable us to move forward.
3. Focus on Who He is instead of how you feel.
In order to move out of discouragement we have to refocus our thoughts. We can’t merely command the enemy to leave and have a blank brain. Paul tells us in Philippians 4: 8 to think on what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, and praiseworthy. He also reminds us in Romans 12: 2 to be transformed by the renewing of our minds.
What does this look like?
For me it looks like letting my specific discouragements go and replacing my thoughts with His character traits. Often I say out loud things that are true about Him. This keeps my thoughts focused.
Here are some of my favorites:
- Jesus Christ is the same yesterday today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8)
- Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you. (Hebrews 13:5)
- Great is our Lord and mighty in power. His understanding has no limit. (Psalm 147:5)
- God is light and in Him there is no darkness at all. (1 John 1:5)
Singing praise songs and favorite old hymns is another way to lift us out of discouragement.
My husband John says that it helps him to recite or to write down the things he knows for sure, the basics, the foundations of our faith.
First thing in the morning make a list of 10 things for which you are thankful. Get a family journal and have the family list 10 things at the dinner table. One day this little book will become a treasure of a family that chose to be grateful during a difficult season.
4. Plan some fun.
One of the things I pray for my husband John and me and for all of my kids and grandchildren is that we will laugh! Laughter is so important. It is joy overflowing. When we observe a small child being silly we laugh! It’s a tonic to our soul. Before my sons were married I prayed, amongst other things, that God would give them wives who would make them laugh. He did! I know how important laughter is in marriage.
This spring I released a new book, Cousin Camp, A Grandparent’s Guide to Creating Fun, Faith, and Memories That Last. (Special sale here, 30% off!)
I hope you’ll grab a copy of both of these resources and celebrate the good things in your life with joy and laughter.