I am the fabled, unbridled optimist. For some reason, the sun always seems to be shining where I live. The grass appears green on both sides of the yard. The sky is perpetually blue. And the clouds have a relentless silver lining. And yet, in full honesty, I’m feeling the loss.
It’s weird – I should feel fine. Right? I haven’t lost a loved one, my job or my chance at an Olympic gold medal due to COVID-19. So why is the feeling still there?
I am feeling the loss of expression on everyone’s faces, now that the mask mandates have truly taken effect. I’m feeling the loss of nearness, now that even my close friends have been routinely socially distant. I’m feeling the loss of nonchalant shopping without being directed by the not-so-subtle signage that I really should take my 15th bump of hand sanitizer for the day.
I’m feeling the loss of the 2020 graduation ceremonies for the recent graduates. I’m feeling the loss of once common courtesies, like hearing the words “God bless you” after a sneeze, instead of hearing an unsettling silence followed by the shuffling of feet heading toward the exit. I’m feeling the loss of traveling overseas as my wife and I had to trade in our 15-year wedding anniversary trip for a stay-at-home order.
Some readers may think I’m just being a crybaby. And, maybe I am. But even for those of us who have not experienced extreme loss in this season of challenge, I think everyone is feeling a low-grade form of unprocessed anxiety. I just want to help people identify the losses they are feeling and encourage them to process their losses in a healthy manner. People cannot make helpful modifications to their lives if they have not honestly come to grips with the specific areas of loss brought on by this pandemic.
One meme I recently snickered at on social media read: “Please check on your extroverted friends. They are not OK!” After all, hugs for some may be optional, but hugs for another may be essential. The losses we feel are not all the same, but we all, in some way, are experiencing loss. Counting your blessings before counting your burdens is a wonderful, joy-giving practice, but we may all, eternal optimists included, need to sit down and clear the air on what is really bothering us about COVID-19.
Habakkuk, an Old Testament prophet, modeled this practice of honest assessment in Habakkuk 3:17-18 when he wrote, “Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!” Habakkuk was not unwilling to pinpoint challenges and face reality; but he ultimately recognizes God’s salvation as superior and chooses joy in the Divine instead of sadness in the situation.
So I ask you, along with the psalmist of old, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God” (Psalm 43:5). Biblically, the feelings of loss we are experiencing due to COVID-19 are, in the end, insufficient to withstand the gathering delight all who “hope in God” will one day experience in Jesus their Savior. So, in this season of difficulty, let’s feel the loss, but see the Savior.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Joshua Gilmore is director of Baptist Campus Ministries at North Greenville University.)