David L. Goetsch
Grieving Over Changes Brought by the Pandemic? John 14:1
Updated: May 16, 2020
Suddenly and without warning, the COVID-19 pandemic changed our lives. As a result, many people find themselves grieving over a way of life that has been lost, at least for the foreseeable future. John 14:1 tells us: “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.” This verse is especially relevant for those who are struggling with unwelcome life-altering changes. We have all experienced grief at some point in our lives. You have probably lost a loved one or endured a personal tragedy that knocked you to your knees. As a result, most of us understand that life can hurt at times.
People I talk to miss the fellowship of weekly church meetings, interacting with colleagues at work, visiting friends, attending sports events, going to movies, eating in restaurants, taking summer vacations, visiting loved ones in nursing homes, and shopping without having to wear a face mask. They hate that the pleasant camaraderie of human interaction has been replaced by wariness and suspicion as we view each other as potential carriers of the virus.
People tell me they are tired of standing six feet apart, scrubbing their hands constantly, and being unable to shake hands or just have a conversation with a neighbor in the grocery store. They are also tired of talking through masks. Many people are grieving for a way of life that now seems lost forever. Others are grieving because the pandemic has forced a Hobson’s choice on them: If I go to work, I might catch the virus but if I don’t go to work my kids will starve. It’s not just jobs that have been lost during the pandemic, it’s also the businesses that provided those jobs.
Grief is anguish, sadness, heartache, or sorrow experienced as the result of misfortune, loss, or tragedy. For Christians, grief forces us to make a choice; we can run to God or run from him. This means you can ask God to lift you up during your time of need and, as a result, grow in faith or you can turn your back on God and lose your faith. Choosing between these two options can be difficult when you are enveloped in grief, but it is a choice nonetheless and the choice is yours. Coping with the grief of having your life altered by COVID-19 is no different than coping with the loss of a loved one. It begins with turning to God.
I have counseled people who, in their grief, became angry at God and turned their backs on Him. This is happening a lot now during the COVID-19 pandemic. People wonder why God would let this scourge happen. The answer to that question is simple though not comforting. The pandemic happened for the same reason all bad things in life happen: we live in a fallen world where bad things happen to good people. Being a Christian doesn’t change that; but it does give us a better way to cope.
Believe me when I claim that few things are sadder than Christians whose lives are permanently mired in anger, bitterness, and resentment because they chose to run away from God when they needed Him most. On the other hand, I have also counseled Christians who in their brokenness ran to Christ for guidance, strength, and comfort. I am happy to say few things are more encouraging than Christians whose hearts are once again filled with hope because they clung to Christ in those dark days when they needed Him most.
God understands that life sometimes hurts, that His children are going to suffer. Consequently, when we face grief, He wants us to place our burdens at His feet and trust Him to bring us through the darkness that envelopes us. If we do this, He will not only provide hope, healing, and restoration; He will use our suffering to strengthen our faith in Him. This, in turn, will make us better able to cope with the inevitable trials of life in a fallen world.
Turning to Christ in times of grief is important because Satan also understands that life sometimes hurts, and he rejoices in this fact because our pain is one of his favorite tools for turning us against the Lord. Like the predator he is, Satan creeps up on you in your weakest, most vulnerable moments. Recall the message in 1 Peter 5:8. This verse warns that we should be watchful because the devil is prowling around looking for vulnerable prey. Just as lions and wolves like to attack victims that have been weakened by injury, Satan likes to attack people who have been weakened by grief and sorrow.
We are most vulnerable to Satan’s nefarious schemes when life knocks us down, filling our hearts with hopelessness and despair. Satan chooses these moments to pull us away from God and into his evil clutches. When this happens, the hope, healing, and restoration that can come only from Christ are replaced by anger, bitterness, and resentment. When life hurts, Satan offers only hopelessness and despair, but God offers hope and healing. I recommend hope and healing.
When weighed down by grief, just coping on a daily basis can seem like a monumental challenge. Worse yet, just coping is not enough. God wants to guide you through the darkness and grow your faith in the process. He wants you to do more than just regain your emotional equilibrium. He wants you to emerge from your grief stronger and closer to Him than you were before the unwelcome event that turned your life upside down.
When I counsel believers who are mired in grief I recommend ten things they can do that will allow them to go beyond just coping to growing in faith in spite of their suffering. The ten strategies I recommend are as follows:
Refuse to blame God for your suffering
Understand that recovery is not linear; there will be ups and downs
Look for God’s purpose in your suffering
Use adversity to bring you closer to God
Do not try to cope with your suffering alone. Seek help from God, pastors, counselors, and fellow believers
Know there will be times when it will seem that your faith is faltering
Help someone else who is suffering
Use adversity to develop Godly character
Take the long view—your grief and sorrow won’t last forever
Share your growth in faith with others who are hurting
It is easy to write these ten strategies down in a list, but not so easy to apply them, especially when you are grieving. But with God’s help will you can gain the benefit these strategies offer.
LESSONS FROM SCRIPTURE FOR YOUR DAILY WALK
To enhance your daily walk with the Lord while also learning to cope with the changes the COVID-19 pandemic has made in your life, consider a few lessons from Scripture. The first lesson is that God is not the author of your grief. We live in a fallen world where bad things happen to good people. Rather, God is the only true source of comfort you have when grief intrudes on your life. This is the message in Revelation 21:4 and Psalm 147:3. God will heal the brokenhearted. He will take away your tears, mourning, and pain. This is why it is important to run to God during times of grief rather than from Him.
Christ cares so much for His children who are suffering that not only does He provide comfort he provides assurance that you are blessed in your grief and sorrow (Matthew 5:4). Because of this, you can face life in a fallen world and cope with the darker hours in your life. Christ tells us in John 14:1 we should not let our hearts be troubled. All we have to do is believe in Him. If you will place the life-altering circumstances brought into your life by the Corona Virus at the feet of Christ and trust in Him, you will find not just the comfort you seek, but restoration too. The COVID-19 plague is one of the biggest things we have ever faced in our lives, but it’s not bigger than God.
Dr. Goetsch is the author of Veterans’ Lament: Is This the America Our Heroes Fought For? Fidelis Books, an imprint of Post Hill Press, (Release date: October,2020) and Christian Women on the Job: Excelling at Work without Compromising Your Faith, Fidelis Books, an imprint of Post Hill Press, 2020.