It is what it is: complaining, coping, or becoming through hardship

I’ll cut to the chase. I’m done with Covid-19. DONE!

I’m sick of it.

I’ve already come to grips with knowing there’s no going back to what was previously “normal.” We can only move forward into some kind of “new normal.” But, enough is enough, already! I’m ready for the new normal, ANY normal, whatever it is, and I’m ready NOW!

I’m ready for a vaccine and herd immunity.

I’m ready to stop wearing a face covering, and constantly lathering my hands with hand gel!

I’m ready for the news to talk about something, anything, else.

As a pastor, I’m ready for everyone to come back to church for worship, and a host of other activities.

I’m ready for everyone to go back to work, and for the economy to rebound.

I’m ready to sit down with a cup of coffee and a good book at my favorite coffee shop.

I’m ready to casually drop into a store, ANY store, to browse for whatever I may or may not want, without worrying about who might be contagious.

I’m ready to go out for Indian food – take out just doesn’t cut it!

I’m DEFINITELY ready for a long-overdue vacation!

I’m ready to make plans.

I’m ready for Covid-19 to be a thing of the past!

I’m ready, NOW!

But, Covid-19 hasn’t consulted with my timeline or asked for my opinion or desires. And, this pandemic is definitely far from over.

As I write this, case counts are rising around the world and in a majority of U.S. states. My own Florida is on the verge of becoming the latest hot spot. Though many are hopeful about a vaccine, no one knows how soon one might be available for safe, wide-spread distribution. Local businesses have announced more layoffs and closures. And, this is only the “first wave!”

I’m obviously not the only one loosing patience with Covid-19. Some states are closing bars, because patrons aren’t social distancing. Some people refuse to wear face masks, even in locales that require it. Many businesses are seemingly back to “business as usual.” Miami and Fort Lauderdale beaches are closing for the Fourth of July weekend, because crowds just can’t stay away.

The waiting is undeniably hard. No one is good at it. It’s unnatural!

Uncertainty is hard. Unfamiliar restrictions are hard. Necessary personal sacrifices and self-denial for the sake of others, seems particularly hard for many. Patience is hard.

I’ve always said, “NEVER ask God for patience. The only way you get patience is by enduring hardship.” But, in this circumstance, I may have changed my mind. Go ahead, ask for patience. These days, what’ve you got to lose!?!

I hear many talking about doing whatever they can to “cope” with their current discomfort. I hear about people “needing” to go out for a drink or meal at a bar or restaurant, to socialize, to get a manicure, to shop, to go to the beach, etc. Are those “needs,” really? Or, are we not very good at adjusting/adapting to hardship? I can’t help but wonder how our neighbors in developing nations might describe the difference between our “needs” for coping and real-life “wants,” or what our great-grandparents, who endured World Wars and the Great Depression, could teach us about accepting ordeals.

So here’s a thought. What if the challenge and opportunity of this pain-in-the-butt season is to learn how to endure hardship, and accept it for what it is? What if, like it or not, this pandemic will suck, and nothing we want or “need” will change that?

I recently started reading Sue Monk Kidd’s When the Heart Waits: Spiritual Direction for Life’s Sacred Questions, in which she spiritually describes what most people call a “mid-life crisis.” Using the image of a butterfly, she describes going through mid-life as “The spiritual art of cocooning.” Just as the transformation from caterpillar to butterfly within the cocoon cannot be rushed, neither can some seasons of spiritual maturing be forced or rushed… or pleasant. She writes, “I wondered if waiting was the ‘missing link’ in spiritual evolving, the lost and forgotten experience crucial to becoming human, fully Christian, fully ourselves.” That seems wise and true to me. It also sounds uncomfortable as hell.

I don’t believe God caused Covid-19, so I also can’t say “God has a purpose for Covid-19.” But, I DO believe God will uniquely work in EVERY situation if God finds willing and able partners in us. If we’re willing to patiently endure this difficult season, submitting it to God, perhaps this could be a season of spiritual “cocooning” for us. Perhaps God could use this endless, awful, prolonged, frustrating, restricting, self-denying pandemic to grow us, if we’re willing to be grown and matured.

If not, then likely not.

“There is a season for everything under heaven,” after all. No doubt, some seasons are preferable to others. Some seasons, thankfully, are text-book blessed. But, biblically speaking, others times are prolonged seasons of barrenness, war, drought, famine, and pestilence. We don’t, typically, get to pick the season. Seasons come and go. We, hopefully, give thanks for the good ones, and endure the worse ones. Yet, with God’s help, every season has a “purpose.” God’s purposes are always for our good and growth.

Don’t get me wrong. I am as impatient as the next person, and I’m as sick and tired of this virus as anyone else. This pandemic has revealed far more of my spiritual immaturities than it has my spiritual development. My need for growth is obvious. My desire for growth is often feeble, at best.

But, it is what it is. My lack of patience isn’t going to end this pandemic any sooner, or make me any more immune to it. My impulsiveness and lack of self-control will only put me and others more at risk. My frustrations and irritations only make me more miserable to be with. Filling my head and heart with negativity isn’t good for anyone.

Why not accept the situation for what it is – hard as hell – and do our best to be wise, responsible, and see if God might use it to grow us? It might not be the growth or maturity you were hoping for. It might not be fun. It might not help us “cope.”

But, it is what it is.

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