It’s okay to be sad. This should go without saying, but I don’t think it does.
It’s okay to be sad.
The year before COVID-19 crept into the United States and continued to devour the globe, my son got sick. He spent a two-night stay in the hospital but fortunately responded well to treatment and started to recover.
A trip to a specialist a few weeks later revealed that not all was well, however. The sickness did not leave him unscathed. As a result, he would have to take his daily prescription indefinitely and would have regular visits with the specialist from then on unless or until his body healed.
Around this time, my own personal research led me to discover that the medicine he was taking could cause brain or liver damage if he were to catch the flu. The happy life we once knew suddenly crumbled like sand beneath our feet as waves of fear and worry swept over us.
Our daily routine and patterns changed abruptly as we tried to figure out how to best protect our son’s health. We stopped going to church for a while (we listened online). Then we started taking turns watching our son so that the other could go to church each Sunday.
I had to drop out of a group for moms with young children because I couldn’t risk putting my son in the nursery there and exposing him to germs, and I could no longer consider being a leader for that group the following semester. I also had to withdraw from a women’s Bible study that was about to begin and told the worship leader at church that I could no longer pursue being part of the choir. My son and I missed the opportunity to see my husband’s family later that year as well and to attend his sister’s wedding reception since we knew a plane trip would inevitably expose him to too many germs.
It was a hard year, not unlike this one in some ways. We became well acquainted with sickness, isolation, and the sorrow that comes with the two. I realized a few things that made the following months a little more bearable, however. I hope they can be of help to you as we experience sickness, isolation, and sorrow together in the weeks to come.
- It’s okay to be sad.
In all fairness, I realized this before my son got sick. What I realized, however, was that it was okay for me to tell other people that.
A lot of times, we tend to want to fix a person’s problem by giving them advice in their moments of sadness. We may tell them they should be glad they don’t have it as bad as so-and-so or that they should just be thankful for what they have.
I dealt with this a little bit as I confided in others about how I was feeling, and it hurt. These phrases only serve to invalidate one’s feelings.
What I needed people to understand was that I was mourning loss. I was mourning the loss of my son’s health, the loss of going to church as a family, the loss of our somewhat carefree life, etc. And it was okay for me to be sad.
Recently I have been thinking a lot about something that Jesus said to His disciples on the mount. He said,
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”Matthew 5:4 ESV
It’s hard to comprehend that Jesus could offer us comfort when we caused Him to suffer and die on a cross for our sins. But He does. He offered it to me often last year and offers it to me still.
As more people enter into this experience of sorrow, sickness, and isolation this year and we join each other in mourning the losses of this pandemic, I want to remind myself to be like Jesus. I want to offer comfort to others, even if my hardships might seem bigger than theirs or I may have to offer it to people who have hurt me. Jesus didn’t compare His hardship or withhold comfort to others, so neither should I. May I learn more and more from His example.
2. Choose wisely in whom you confide.
I was very fortunate last year because most people that knew about my family’s situation were compassionate toward us. I found, however, that it was especially helpful to talk to my mom and younger sister when I was feeling down. They empathized with me and didn’t try to minimize my concerns or my losses. They wept with me and felt my pain, but they didn’t allow me wallow in it. They reminded me that God was in control and that He loved my son more than I did. And He wasn’t withholding goodness from us even though we were walking through a dark time.
In a situation like this where we face a pandemic worldwide, it might be easy to think that we can confide in anyone about how we are feeling, but we would be wrong. Some people’s burdens will feel so heavy to them in the months to follow that they will have no strength to carry anyone else’s burdens. Others won’t be able to empathize because they won’t understand why people are sad about certain things. And others just simply won’t know how to empathize because they never have.
As the weeks continue and we remain under our current restrictions, let’s pray that God would help us to know in whom we can confide (through virtual options, of course) and that He would help us to be safe people in whom to confide. And let’s confide in Him most of all. After all,
He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”Psalms 147:3
He knows how to take care of our pain and bring relief to our souls. He is a trustworthy God who delights to bring healing to His children.
3. Let God heal the underlying root to your emotions.
There is a list of possible symptoms that a person could experience with the Coronavirus that is circulating in different media outlets. Why? Because anyone with those symptoms needs to self-isolate so that they do not spread the illness to others. Perhaps the hardest part of putting an end to this pandemic is the fact that an individual can be infected without even realizing it, thus spreading the illness to others.
Although none of us like to experience symptoms of illness, they are a very important part of the human experience. They help us to realize that we have an underlying health issue and cause us to temporarily change our normal way of life so that we can get well.
Our feelings are a lot like symptoms. They show us the health of our hearts. If we are sad, frustrated, anxious, etc., those emotions show us that we hold a certain belief or mindset that is making us feel that way. Those thoughts and beliefs are the underlying issue.
What I have found in my own experience is that I can easily recognize my symptoms, but it is often hard for me to recognize the underlying issue. I either want to wallow in my emotions without thinking about their root cause or stuff them to the back of my mind rather than deal with them. A lot of times they just seem too painful to want to dwell on. The road to healing, however, is to dress the wound. A heart doesn’t heal if its source of pain is not mended.
As I cycled in and out of sorrow (and anger) last year, God helped me to recognize several underlying issues that were making me feel the way that I did.
I can’t say that I resolved the underlying issues perfectly as each one came up, but I did see God addressing my emotions and revealing these underlying issues to me each time I turned to Him. And He kept reminding me that He was in control and that He was not anxious or afraid.
Letting go and trusting God was a hard lesson for me to learn. It still is. It showed me how much I want to control things. But I believe it has been the very lesson I have needed because of all the opportunities I have missed out on in trying to control my life. God would choose abundant life for me, but much of that means letting go. He continues to work in my emotions as I continue to recognize how little control I have lately, even less than I ever realized before. And I’m glad. Perhaps a little terrified, but glad. I wanted an adventure, and I’m getting more than what I ever bargained for. We always do with God.
I believe that many of us will find that we cycle in and out of sorrow and other emotions for however long this pandemic lasts. It’s to be expected. God will continue to work in our feelings and thoughts if we continue to ask Him to. He is the greatest counselor and physician. He delights in making us whole.
Even so, it’s okay to be sad. Everything we are mourning today is ultimately due to the effects of sin in the world. Sickness and death entered the world through sin, and we mourn what sickness and death are doing in every area of the world today. As we mourn sin’s effects and seek God’s comfort, I pray we would be able to come to a place as believers where we would ask God to search us and know our hearts and see if there is any grievous way in us (Psalms 139:23-24). He is able to create a clean heart and renew a right spirit within us (Psalms 51:10). Let’s ask Him to. Let’s start afresh with Him today.