During a recent conversation with my sister, I told her how I was feeling stressed about all the unknowns of Coronavirus and that I had been trying to research to the best of my ability to forecast how much longer I would have to be stressed about COVID-19. My sister is a photographer and shared an analogy that I have found to be helpful. She told me that in the past she would look at the 10-day forecast for a wedding that she was scheduled to shoot. If the forecast said anything about rain, she found herself stressing about how to offer the best photos with less than ideal weather conditions. Often, by the time the wedding rolled around, the chances of rain had either dramatically decreased or had disappeared all together, so she gave herself the challenge to not look at the 10-day forecast because it caused unnecessary stress and was rarely accurate.
What she shared has had me thinking about how I have been responding to the stress in the world lately. Yes, I am a counselor. I teach people strategies for coping with worry regularly, but this does not mean that I am immune to worrying. As I sit and write this, I am approximately 2.5 weeks away from giving birth to my second child. The list of questions, concerns, and worries rattling around inside my head is long, and some days, the worries literally seem to take over. Having a baby during a pandemic feels terrifying with too many unknowns to count.
I know I am not the only one experiencing stress and worry due to the pandemic. The stress level of the world collectively is rising. Have you felt it? Coronavirus is all over the news and social media feeds and is a trigger of worry for many. People have had to figure out new ways of going about life – how to budget differently to stretch finances, how to become homeschool teachers for kids that are out of school, how to connect virtually with family and friends, how to work from home, and more. With all of these changes come a lot of questions.
When will life go back to normal?
What are the long-term impacts of this going to be?
How will we survive COVID-19?
Will my investment accounts recover?
Will my kids be okay?
And the list goes on and on.
We desire control (or at least a perceived sense of it), and fear and anxiety tend to show up when we sense that we are lacking control. In ways, fear and anxiety are like wanting to know the 10-day forecast so that you can make plans well in advance and know what to expect. The thing about 10-day forecasts, though, is that they are rarely right. The voice of fear tells us that if we can plan out and answer all of the questions rolling around in our minds we will feel like we are in control and the stress will go away. But control is elusive – especially in light of a pandemic. There is far more outside of my control than within my control right now.
So what are we to do about this? Instead of stressing about the 10-day forecast, these two words have been my focus lately: DAILY BREAD.
You might remember the story of God providing manna for the Israelites in the wilderness found in Exodus 16. The Israelites had left Egypt and began to complain that it would have been better for them to stay in slavery and have full bellies than to be in the wilderness and starve. God hears their grumbling and satisfies their hunger by promising to rain down bread from heaven. God commands the people to gather a certain amount for each person in the household, essentially what each person could eat. Moses tells the people to make sure that none of the manna is left until the morning, but some of the Israelites tried to save it for the next day only to find that the manna was rotten and filled with worms.
The thing about manna is that it was an exercise in trusting God to continually provide for daily needs. I can understand how worry about provision and the fear of hunger would cause some of the people to want to save the manna for the next day, but that was not what God commanded. God wanted the people to trust that He would continue to provide for their daily needs, and by gathering only what was needed, they would demonstrate their faith in God’s provision.
Focusing on daily bread during COVID-19 could mean continually taking anxious thoughts captive and reminding myself of God’s promise to provide. After all, His name is Jehovah Jireh, which literally means the Lord will provide. It might mean that instead of trying to forecast the future and allowing my worries to continually rattle off inside my head I intentionally set my focus to what I need to accomplish each day trusting that God will give me exactly what I need. It might also mean staying off social media, turning off the television and opening my Bible to be refreshed by the Word or reaching out to someone I know and trust to remind me of truth.
While the future (the 10-day forecast) of COVID-19 and its lasting impact seem threatening just like the unknowns of bringing a baby into the world during a pandemic are overwhelming, Christians have the privilege of resting assured that God is sovereign and in control. The battle has been won. Jesus Christ has conquered the world through his death and resurrection, and He is seated on the throne continuing to reign. COVID-19 will not win the battle because Christ already has.
Jesus asks his disciples “Can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” (Matthew 6:27) That question applies here too. Can we change the 10-day weather forecast by checking it compulsively and stressing out about what it says? Rather than stressing about the 10-day forecast, can we commit to focusing on daily bread instead? Set your eyes on Jesus, the Bread of Life (John 6:35).