When Life As We Know It Has Changed: The Catastrophic Effects of COVID-19
Updated: Aug 12, 2022
I wasn't sure I wanted to delve into this topic, partly because it's a hotbed of controversy and partly because it breaks my heart. Truly, I don't even like typing out the dreaded words of the virus. Maybe like many of you, I, too, wonder about the long-term effects of COVID-19 as it wreaks havoc in our community, schools, churches, and homes. When will this be over? What will life be like after? How will things look for my son in the future?
It's not surprising to hear the stories from disheartened clients who are suffering as a result of the global pandemic. They are homeless, lonely, grieving, unemployed, burdened by fear of what the future might hold. While not every life problem can be pinned to the existence of COVID, it has surely shaken our world as we know it. And if you're identifying with the oppressive weight of loss, fear, and division caused by this pandemic, know you're not alone. Our world is changing, and while much of the change we see is hard to watch, there echoes an undeniable call for courage, hope and to cling to what is good.
Social Impact of Pandemic Times
Quarantine plummeted many into physical isolation yet connected the world technologically more than ever before. Technology and I have a love-hate relationship, but I can't even imagine where we would be without the ability to connect virtually. Even so, how does a sudden thrust into mostly-virtual life affect us as a society?
There is such a thing as "Zoom fatigue," I learned recently. One article discusses the "loneliness paradox" in which the more socially connected we become online, the lonelier we actually feel. (My social media post covers more on this topic.) Mental health has declined over the past year-and-a-half while substance abuse, suicide, and domestic violence have skyrocketed. My goal here is not to be a downer, but to point to the fact that we need each other now more than ever.
If anything, the pandemic has unveiled how much we need community, face-to-face interaction, opportunity to rejoice together and comfort one another. Working, learning, playing, and interacting remotely is sometimes necessary and helpful for a season, but it is not the long-term solution.
Repairing Fractured Relationships
It's obvious that any discussion related to COVID-19 is often sticky and has caused immense division amongst even friends and family members. As a peace-lover, this is one of the hardest things to grapple with about the worldwide tragedy. But like it or not, in the face of difficult topics, there will always be lines drawn in the sand. Even outside of the virus, relationships can be stretched and strained for other reasons.
Here are some thoughts on how to handle the tension:
Remember stress often brings out our worst
Under the anger, there is probably worry, fear, and anxiety. In the face of the unknown, we scramble to make sense of what is happening and formulate a plan that allows us to move forward. When we're squeezed under pressure, whatever's inside is going to come out.
Just like we see with trauma and grief, messy things we face in life are exactly that...
Messy. Slippery. Undefined. We aren't born with a manual instructing us to turn to page 27 to neatly handle surprise situations. Sometimes we just do our best to work with what we have and make up the rest. A key component to relationships is to exercise what we've been given ourselves- grace.
Believe that people are (usually) motivated by good intentions
If we choose to view the world through a darkened lens that expects the worst in others, that's what we'll see. But if you choose to adopt the mindset that most people are operating from an altruistic place, your perspective changes. You start to want to see the best in people, to understand their differing viewpoints.
We're not always going to be walking the same path
As one of my favorite quotes from The Chronicles of Narnia goes, "No one is told any story but his own." What a relief we don't have to assume the position of judge in someone else's story! We have only to evaluate our own roles in it. While there is a place for gentle confrontation, those times are probably fewer than the times we should be walking beside in love.
Nobody has all the answers
We simply don't know what we don't know yet. Carefully filter the stream of information you let into your home and mind. When looking for information, we can almost always pick and choose pieces that either make us feel better or support what we want to believe. The best thing we can do both for ourselves and our loved ones is do some practical information-gathering and critical thinking for ourselves. And expect that others are doing the same.
I'm not saying you haven't been hurt, that there aren't egregious wounds inflicted by someone in your life. But forgiveness is freedom. Hannah Moore describes forgiveness as "the economy of the heart." It saves us the expenses of resentment, wasted words, and our own angry energy. Not only this, but we are commanded to do so. This is part of Romans 12, which says:
"...Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves..."
Take Heart and Have Hope
I'm not sure I can latch onto the notion that things will return to "normal." I think the still-enduring global pandemic has changed us forever culturally, socially, and personally. And while my wandering mind still frets over the future, there are overwhelmingly reassuring reminders of hope that we can hold fast to today.
People are looking for answers, for help, and for hope. This is not really new, but time of crisis is a bullhorn of a call for the church to spring into action. We just passed the 20th anniversary of 9/11. The attacks devastated our nation and spiked a 25% increase in church attendance across the country immediately after the tragedy as hurting people sought healing and hope. Again in the face of heartache someone is looking for an anchor when the world feels like it's spinning out of control, and YOU can serve as a beacon of light that draws others to truth and healing.
How you are handling the current crisis is already an illustration of here you place your hope. You aren't going to do it perfectly- and no one expects you to. Moments of fear or anger may wash over you but you can refuse to allow these things to be the mentality that defines today. Circumstances, human leadership, health, worldly security will all let you down at some point. The God who goes before us (Deuteronomy 31:8) shows us the way to go (Psalm 32:8), gives rest to the weary and burdened (Matthew 11:28), and has already overcome this pandemic and any other flaming arrows of evil we encounter while on earth.
Take heart, have hope, and trust in Him.
Cling to What is Good
The world is -literally- at our fingertips, and as people are facing insurmountable grief and loss, we are able to offer compassion, conversation, and comfort from anywhere on the planet. Take this opportunity to reach out to someone you haven't seen or talked to in awhile. Virus or not, I don't know anyone who doesn't like the ding of a text alerting you that you're in someone's thoughts and prayers. Here are some other helpful ideas of ways to serve.
Advice for myself and anyone reading this: take lots of breaks from virtual life. You'll only be glad you took a hiatus from the news and social media to focus on in-person time with family and friends, walks outside, puzzles or books, crafting, or games. Parents, guard your children when it comes to screens more than ever before. One of the greatest gifts you can give your kids is teaching them the joy in simple things, maybe some of the things you loved as a kid and now get to share with your own.
It goes without saying but should still be called out- take care of yourself! If you or someone you know is really struggling with pandemic-effects, or maybe just with life happenings in general, there are so many outlets for help. One of the great technology blessings we have now is Telehealth options for virtual counseling. You can visit the Psychology Today website and use your zip code to find local qualified therapists that offer in-person and/or Telehealth. If you're a Florida resident, my office in Sarasota- Heart to Heart Counseling- is one full of wonderful therapists who offer Telehealth as well. Many churches offer counseling or mentoring even if you're not a member. Just processing recent events, brainstorming out loud, or even commiserating with someone else can offer relief and a sense of comfort.
As always, I love your feedback! Please don't hesitate to reach out and share your thoughts, questions or comments on this topic or really any other.