By Brooke Stacia DeMott
“Hey … so, how have you been holding up?”
Other than the globally synchronized valediction of 2020’s dreary motto, “Stay safe,” a doleful greeting marinated in expectant sympathy has become an earmark of this bizarre time. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing; in reality, it’s probably the best way to approach someone you haven’t seen much of in the last three months. (Which, of course, is everyone).
But honestly, I’ve struggled with that question. Its undertone carries a weighted assumption of despair, and so I’m tempted to sigh and commiserate — sort of like when you yawn because the guy next to you in the elevator started yawning. But truthfully? I’m fine. Not the kind of “fine” that’s typical of arms-length, American civility; it runs much deeper than that.
I certainly haven’t been insulated from difficulty over the last three months. My husband, a self-employed laborer in a “non-essential” industry, was out of work for about seven weeks. He couldn’t get through to unemployment until that time had nearly ended, and a glitch in the IRS website held up stimulus assistance for nearly two months.
So, with our sole provider indefinitely benched, seven kids to feed, and Governor Andrew Cuomo’s worst-case scenario being nine potential months of lockdown, there was plenty of reason to panic.
In the midst of all of this, we lost a baby. The miscarriage was devastating and scary, requiring emergency surgery to stop what was, by all accounts, an alarming amount of blood loss.
While I recovered physically and emotionally at home with my family, time marched on toward the dissipation of COVID-19 and the easing of Upstate New York restrictions.
As the world took its first tentative steps forward, adjusting to the “new normal” of economic whiplash, America’s simmering racial division boiled over at the death of George Floyd and emerging hordes of opportunistic anarchists got a whiff.
A generation of confused, unrooted, angry kids with handfuls of matches and hearts full of malice set the world on fire.
Protests in major American cities drew enormous crowds, and shortly thereafter, a surge of new COVID-19 cases sparked chatter that we could potentially enter a “second-wave” lockdown.
Add to this the uneasy awareness of increasing, blatant public manipulation forged by our politicians and major media outlets, prompting a blessed resurgence of critical thinking with questions like, “Why can’t my whole church meet together, but I can join thousands of people at a protest?” and “Why would we defund the police when lawlessness is rising?”
As major market news becomes more politically charged, inconsistencies in public policy are feeding large doses of suspicion to the truth-starved public.
And so, in light of all of this, when someone asks me how I am, I’m almost embarrassed to tell them that really, I’m fine. Truly, I’m better than fine; there’s an increasing undercurrent of peace that steadies my soul, and I find that remarkably, with every passing day, there is a growing sense of hope.
“I tell you, don’t worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Isn’t life more than food, and the body, more than clothes?
“Look at the birds of the air; they don’t sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you much more valuable than they?
“Can any of you, by worrying, add a single hour to your life?
“So don’t say, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’
“For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.
“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6
I’ve read these verses for years, wondering what it must’ve been like for a people living under occupation, in abject poverty, to hear them first, and then, to cast their cares solely upon the Lord.
There’s a big difference between a faith born in prosperity, and one forged in the fires of trial.
In America, Christian’s don’t really struggle. The biggest fight of the American church is apathy; we’ve lost our fire for the supremacy, magnitude, and holiness of the Kingdom of God.
Instead of boldly proclaiming and living in total abandon for his kingdom, we’ve grafted ourselves to this one, using human methods to generate a false sense of supernatural experience. We’re selling a gospel by-product packaged in therapeutics and self-actualization mantras, cheapening the mission and making it our goal to coax a lackluster public into Sunday morning service.
It’s a form of godliness that lacks power. And it has rendered the church impotent.
But I have learned something in these remarkable days. The power of God manifests in the hearts of his children as a quiet, unyielding strength that swells in the deepest realms of my weakness, overtaking it, laying it to waste and replacing it with total confidence in my God, the rock of my salvation.
“ … And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.’ Philippians 4:6-7
• Brooke Stacia DeMott is a columnist with In Good Health newspaper. Got a question for Demott? Feel free to email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.