Three ways for you to look amid the suffering of Covid Posted on February 14, 2021February 14, 2021 by Dave Fenton Things are tough. Have been for a very long time. And look to be this way for a while yet. So how are we to make the best fist we can of getting through it? I’ve become convinced it has much to do with the direction in which we chose to look. And that’s what I want to unpack for you. But first, let’s be clear that the pain that comes from Covid should not be a surprise. This is perfectly expressed by a memorable line in Shadowlands, the biopic of CS Lewis. When his wife Joy, close to death from cancer, comforted her husband with the line – ‘down here, suffering is part of the deal’. But actually, the Bible got there first. Consider these lines from Ecclesiastes chapter 3 – perhaps you can hear The Byrds singing them – There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die . . . . a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance Right now, there’s no shortage of weeping and mourning – for all that has been lost as the result of Covid. Most of us probably know someone who has died – certainly we know someone who has had the virus. Then there’s the huge level of loneliness, isolation and disappointment felt by many. Children have had endless disruption not to mention teachers and home-schooling parents who have had to cope. Perhaps prophetically, Ecclesiastes also promises – A time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, And here we are in pain for the lack of hugs – the number one thing a poll on the AfterWorkNet Facebook page people said they are most looking forward to. All this prompted me to think where I should be looking to not only survive but to ask that right question in my own life. ‘God – what are you wanting to teach me?’ I came up with ‘three ways to look’. We need to look in Looking in means to look after ourselves and take care. There is nothing wrong with being careful about where we go and who we speak to. It is too easy to focus on those who stand outside hospitals and say this pandemic isn’t real. Or to get wound up at the news of people having wedding parties with 400 people there. Instead, we have a duty to look after ourselves – physically, emotionally and spiritually. Physically: This is about being wise regarding diet and exercise – even though temptation is close and exercise is harder with so much closed. But getting through this is going to take some commitment to cherish ourselves – and also being kind to ourselves when we fail. Emotionally: Here we must take account of the reality of the grief that comes with the wide range of loss we are experiencing – from loss of life itself to loss of dreams. And so much in between. That calls us to give ourselves space, weep with those who weep and to have a good cry when we need to. Spiritually: Nurturing our spiritual side is harder when energy is drained and emotions are stretched. That calls for realism. But time in the Bible, perhaps the Psalms, or letting your taste in worship music wash over you could do wonders for your soul. We need to look out It is surely healthy to have something beyond our front door that reminds us that we may be struggling but there is almost certainly someone who is worse off. Perhaps in our neighbourhood, in our church or even further afield. Maybe just pick up a phone when someone comes to mind. It could also mean having our eyes on our world. As I did when part of a Zoom Tearfund prayer breakfast recently. It was moving to hear of all that has hit Ethiopia in the last few months. A plague of locusts, hunger, poverty, floods and the second highest Covid rate in Africa. As a result, I should be looking for a project which can be an ‘out focus’ for me. Indeed, our ‘look out’ project could equally be a neighbour or a hospital in the Sudan that we pray for, send messages to or send some support funds. We need to look up It is as true now as ever it was – that ‘God is our refuge and strength; a very present help in trouble’ (Psalm 46:1). We have a great creator God who sent his son be our Saviour. If life feels rough, talk to him. He knows all there is to know and he understands pain because his son suffered just that. It would be great to have real-life fellowship to share things but we can’t at the moment. So, we need to look to him. Maybe a ‘read time’ each day – Billy Graham had a daily discipline of reading a Psalm to remind him what God is like and a chapter of Proverbs to remind him how to deal with people. Our great God has not gone ‘on leave’ while we suffer this pandemic. He is not gloating over our plight. But, as he often did in the Bible, he is longing that, as we suffer these difficult times, we become people who are more and more reliant on him. So, which way should we be looking – of course it’s ALL THREE. Time spent looking after yourself. Time spent engaged with someone struggling with life. Time spent with the God who loves and who has plans and purposes for you (Jeremiah 29 v11) and who still reigns supreme. Think this might be helpful to others? Then please share using the simple links below. Thank you. Dave Fenton Dave, AfterWorkNet’s Director is a retired clergyman. He’s spending his after-work time lecturing at Moorlands College, and – when things are more normal, builds relationships and shares his faith at his local golf club, and escapes to a cliff-top caravan in Cornwall where his seven grandchildren enjoy the local surfing beach.