A few weeks ago, part of me thought it was ridiculous that colleges across the nation were shutting down for the semester because of the oncoming COVID-19 virus. Now, of course, we realize universities should have done it much sooner, along with many other crowd-gathering institutions.
Nothing like a worldwide pandemic to show you how foolish and prideful you really are (me, not you).
As I sit at the beginning of another week, grieving the quarantine, it’s become quite clear none of us know what we’re doing. This is new for everyone. None of this is normal.
And as people who have never gone through something like this before, panic may well up inside of us because we don’t like feeling out of control. You’re used to having a handle on what your days and weeks will look like.
The mystery of how long the kids will be home from school and what will happen this summer not only holds a lack of being in the driver’s seat of your own life but a real sense of sadness as well.
Sadness because you had it all planned out.
You were going to take that summer internship to beef up your resumé for future job prospects. Or you were going on that girls weekend retreat with your sisters at the shore to finally get some time away from the kids. You planned on spending a lot more intentional time with your neighbors in the cul-de-sac. You were going to crush that group presentation at work that would have probably landed you a big promotion and raise.
Grieving the quarantine when your plans change
Now that’s all ended, and you feel like you and the entire country is on house arrest. The loss of this spring (and now perhaps summer) has you authentically grieving the quarantine. You feel like you’re in a season of suffering, and you want to know when the pain is going to end.
Well, as someone who’s trapped at home too (and working out of a cold, unfinished basement) let me help by giving you a few points to digest as you experience the pain of losing this valuable time.
1. It’s okay to be disappointed.
Appropriately grieve the endings you are experiencing—the camping trip you were going to take with your friends. The concert you were excited about going to in celebration of your birthday next month. The summer mission you already started raising support for. The family reunion you had planned.
Specifically name the endings you’ve already gone through, along with the ones to come, and confess your disappointment. List them, grieve them, and don’t push away the experience of pain. Grieving the quarantine is necessary and healthy.
Know Jesus understands what you’re going through, because He was a man of sorrows, too. He was uncelebrated, unseen, and unacknowledged for who He was and what He did. Christ knows the sorrows and disappointments of this world because He was fully God but fully human. He wept and grieved alongside the hurting, sick, poor, and lonely.
It’s okay to grieve the disappointing endings you’re going through. The Son of God grieved endings, too (see John 11:1-44).
2. Don’t dwell on when this is going to end.
I’ve learned I’m in the bad habit of constantly desiring to “cross the finish line” of suffering or trials. I’m not good with discomfort. I’ve been enlightened to my own selfish questioning of God with examples like, “When is this going to be over?” and “Where’s the light at the end of the tunnel?”
Perhaps you can relate.
But the reality all of us need to face with our pain is that once this difficult experience ends, another one is just ahead. Maybe not on the scale of a global pandemic, but trials are coming nonetheless.
Life is a series of joyful events and painful ones, looping in repeat, day after day, month after month, year after year. There really isn’t a finish line when it comes to heartbreaking occurrences in this life (before heaven). And if there isn’t, what good is there in constantly focusing on when it will end?
I’m encouraged by Psalm 27:14, which says, “Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!”
Maybe we shouldn’t look to the finish line, but instead to the side, where we’ll see Jesus alongside us through every single stride.
3. Remember there is bright hope for the future.
For Christians, all seasons of grieving will come to an end. Perhaps the grieving will fade or stop with time, or perhaps it won’t totally go away until the other side of eternity begins. Either way, there is a bright hope for the children of God.
It is nearly impossible for me to read pieces of Scripture like Ephesians 1:11-14 and not be flooded with hope. Look with fresh eyes at this promise:
“In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:11–14).
If you are a follower of Christ, you have been sealed in the Holy Spirit and guaranteed an inheritance. The guarantee is trustworthy because God is the One who made it, and God never revokes his promises.
Regardless of all that you’re suffering and going through right now, it will pass and it should point you to the fact that there is an ultimate future for you, too. A promised future from the lips of God himself that you can count on because our Promise-Maker is good.
Grieving the quarantine won’t last
It’s okay to feel disappointed about so much getting canceled, but don’t spend this time constantly wishing away the pain.
God understands and cares about you personally because He was willing to give up everything just to be with you. And as a result of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection, you can hope in a personal bright future with him where grieving is no longer part of your story.
Copyright © 2020 FamilyLife. All rights reserved.
Shelby Abbott is an author, campus minister, content creator, and conference speaker on staff with FamilyLife. His passion for university students has led him to speak at college campuses all over the United States and author the books Jacked, I Am A Tool (To Help With Your Dating Life), Pressure Points: A Guide to Navigating Student Stress, and the forthcoming DoubtLess: Because Faith is Hard (August 17, New Growth Press). He and his wife Rachael have two daughters and reside in Downingtown, Pennsylvania. Instagram/Twitter: @shelbyabbott, Web: shelbyabbott.com