Quarantined because of COVID-19? On lockdown in your state or country? Can’t go out? Now you know, sort of, what it’s like to be me. Except, I have an eleven year head start.
Back in September of 2008, chronic widespread nerve pain that began in 1996 worsened to the point of rendering me housebound. One day I was out and about, and the next I began a multi-year “stay-at-home” that continues to this day.
At first I thought that things would improve in a few days. They didn’t. Then I hoped things would improve in a few weeks. Nope. Then it was months… then years. During this time, I have only been able to leave the house for a small amount of reasons, and then only if I was having a better day pain wise.
The reasons I went out included trips to medical facilities and going to the pool for exercise. I was also able to attend some church services, albeit only for about 20 minutes. In recent years, I’ve been able to enjoy some quick meals at restaurants. With some strategic planning, I also enjoyed a few fun trips to the gun shop and shooting range. That was a blast! I hope to be able to go back again someday.
A few other trips included a visit to a friend’s home, seeing our daughter’s new apartment, visiting my dying father-in-law to say goodbye, and one very special day in May 2015 I got to go to our daughter’s wedding and see parts of it. These trips were made possible because we took an air mattress with tons of padding with us. This allowed me to lie comfortably and rest when needed while out of the house. Besides that, its been the four walls of our living room or dining room and alternating between resting face down on the couch (because the nerve pain prohibits lying on my back) and sitting up at the table for about an hour at a time. Sometimes, those four walls have felt like a prison.
So to say that I know and understand what you might be feeling right now when it comes to being stuck at home, is no exaggeration. When I saw this current virus-related lockdown beginning, my first reaction was sadness for all of you whose lives had been downgraded to my level. It’s true that I did not have the added problem of this new virus, but I certainly have plenty of experience with not being able to go out. There has also been the problems of constant pain and limited mobility even in my own home. I can’t get up and repaint a bedroom if I’m bored.
I completely understand not being able to go where you want to go or do what you want to do. I know the loss and pain of it. I know the sadness of being separated from family and friends. And I’m not the only one. There are many others who were housebound before this virus blew in. We get it.
Because of the virus, you may now be experiencing some of the things that I lost or missed out on, or you might experience them before things improve. Take a look at the list below. Maybe you can relate to these things that came to end for me or were missed entirely because of my “shutdown”. Notice that even in the bleakness, there were rays of light. I attribute that to God’s mercy and care.
Work: No more helping my husband with his business on location or with customers in the office.
I have been able to help in limited ways like putting orders together and managing our web presence.
No more social gatherings outside the home and very limited inside.
No more extended family and friends’ birthday parties, cookouts, anniversary parties, showers, or weddings.
No more wakes or funerals save one wake that I was able to attend briefly.
No more fun trips to the mall or other stores.
I thank God for online shopping. Amongst other things, it allowed me to keep doing the shopping for our kids for their birthdays and Christmas.
No more taking our kids on homeschooling field trips.
I was extremely blessed to be able to continue to homeschool, albeit from the couch for seven years.
No more physically serving at church.
I’m grateful that I have been able to create and participate in online ministry since 2009.
As to our church, though it couldn’t be done in person, I did work at and succeed at communicating to church leadership that their hosting of Beth Moore’s Living Proof Live Simulcast was detrimental. I thank God that it came to an end, and that our pastor was open to moving in a better direction.
No more hanging out with friends at their homes and watching our kids play together.
Some friends did come to visit when I was up to it; others never did. An unexpected blessing was the friends I’ve made online during my lockdown. One in particular has become a very dear friend. She has brought a lot of sunshine into my life even though we have never met face to face.
No more karate classes for me or watching our son in his classes.
Thankfully I reached black belt with my husband and our daughter before my lockdown. I was also able to make a quick visit to the dojo to see our son get his black belt.
No more long rides on my motorcycle.
There have been some super brief 10 minute rides around the block on rare occasions.
I missed every one of our daughter’s Irish step dancing competitions.
I missed participating with our son’s Boy Scout troop.
I missed our daughter’s college graduation ceremony, and will likely miss our son’s.
I missed our children’s high school graduation ceremonies. They were enrolled in Christian Liberty’s CLASS homeschooling academy program for 11th and 12th grade and thus were able to attend the graduation ceremony. They went with their dad.
No more hanging out along the river eating ice-cream.
No more normal trips to restaurants.
No more mountain climbing.
No more vacations.
No more Christmas parties at my parents’ home.
Though I was blessed that the party eventually got moved to our home.
No more voting in person.
ADVICE FROM THE COUCH
Living a limited life like this for over eleven years has not been easy on me or my family, but it has also taught us things. Personally, I’ve learned a lot. I‘ve also seen firsthand that living the Christian life in hard times is not only doable, it is sustaining. It is life giving and pushes out the darkness.
I’d like to share some of what I’ve learned from my time on the couch and some aspects of the Christian life that can hopefully help make your lockdown more bearable and even fruitful, to the glory of God. These aspects of the Christian life are things we are called to live out whether we are stuck in our homes or not. Our circumstances are not an excuse to put obedience to God’s word on hold.
✤ Try to keep things as normal as possible. You don’t have to throw in the towel on order and traditions because life has been turned upside down.
✤ Don’t dwell on the things you are missing out on. That will only make you mad, bitter, or depressed. While you may have reason to be upset, resist a continuous pity-party.
✤ If you are really struggling to lift your spirits and see good, reach out for help.
✤ Be good to those around you. It’s not their fault that things are as they are. (Ephesians 4:32)
✤ Don’t make a hard situation worse by being impatient, grumpy, or self-centered. (1 Corinthians 13:4, Philippians 2:3)
✤ Don’t compare your situation to others. You are living your life. They are living theirs.
✤ Time goes fast, even in bad situations. Make the most if it. Stay busy and do well.
✤ If you have a particularly bad day, that does not mean that the next day will be as bad. Reset and push-on seeking the help of God in prayer. More about prayer in a moment.
✤ Keep making connections with family and friends who are outside your home in any safe way you can. Fellowship can push back the clouds.
✤ Speaking of clouds, get outside, even if it’s on your front steps. If you can’t, enjoy the view through a window.
✤ Be grateful. This one is big. It has made a huge difference in how I have survived these past eleven years. God’s mercies are new each morning; therefor, there is always something to be grateful for. Find it and fight and replace any bitterness or sadness with thankfulness. Express that thankfulness towards others who deserve it and above all, thank God. If everything was stripped away, we would still have our salvation. We are His beloved and will see Him one day. (Lamentations 3:22-23, 1 Thessalonians 5:18)
✤ Lean on the Lord in prayer. Seek His will in prayer. Confess your sins in prayer. Pray for your family, neighbors, and country. Just pray. (Matthew 6:9-13, 1 Thessalonians 5:17, 1 Timothy 2:1-2)
✤ Be mindful of your sanctification and pursue holiness. (1 Peter 1:15-16)
✤ Read and study the word, and stay or get connected to good Bible teaching either through your church who might be streaming sermons or other faithful ministries online. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
✤ Use your time and energy to serve others for the sake of the gospel. Lockdown does not have to mean the end of Christian ministry. In fact, it can give birth to new ventures. Find a way to minster to those who do not know Christ and/or serve His church. It’s not too hard to do these things online from your home.
✤ Trust God, wait on Him, and keep your hope in Him. These things might be easy to write, but they are not always easy to do. The fault is not in our Lord; it’s in us. Though He is mighty and merciful, we can lose our footing. When this happens to me, I need reminders. The psalms are a great help for this. So many psalms speak to God’s power and loving-kindness. I have my own expression that helps to pull me out of worry and feeling hopeless. It is “Who knows what God will yet do”. It helps to counter the “what if’s” and to stop catastrophizing. Sometimes, I can fall into thinking that the pain will never stop and that I will be stuck in the house forever. That is painful. It helps to remember that I don’t know what God has in store for me. It helps to obey His word and wait on Him. Who knows? Something could change for the better, even after all this time. (Proverbs 3:5, Psalms 27:14, Psalms 42:5, 11)
✤ Remember that God is sovereign. This is another big one. It has also been a huge help to me. God is sovereign, and He is also good and merciful. This does not mean that bad things don’t happen, but it does mean that they are all in His control and for His good purposes. (See: A Short Study on the Sovereignty of God)
I do fully believe that, it if is God’s will, things will get better soon in many ways. You and yours are in my prayers. Please pray for me and mine.
After this is all done, please try to remember those who are shut-ins, be they people from your church or a family member or a friend. Short of specific life changing mercy from God, some of us might not get to come back out and play again when this is all over.
“If the LORD had not been my help, My soul would soon have dwelt in the abode of silence. If I should say, “My foot has slipped,” Your lovingkindness, O LORD, will hold me up. When my anxious thoughts multiply within me, Your consolations delight my soul.” (Psalms 94:17-19)
“This I recall to my mind, Therefore I have hope. The LORD’S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. ‘The LORD is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘Therefore I have hope in Him.’ The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, To the person who seeks Him. It is good that he waits silently For the salvation of the LORD.” (Lamentations 3:21-26)