After months of disruption, it feels like life is finally becoming more normal!
I don’t know what it’s like where you are but, for me, this last month is the nearest to normal it has felt since March 2020. Church in person, work with real-life young people, the freedom to visit family and friends and even to go in their houses… It has been wonderful in many ways.
But, if I’m honest, underlying it all has been an anxiety. The cause has been hard to pinpoint, but eventually I’ve reached the conclusion that it comes from a sense of uncertainty over the future.
To start with, the rates of COVID in my area just now are actually at their highest point in the whole pandemic (with the possible exception of the early days when testing was very limited). Case levels are three times what they were in January when we were in complete lockdown, and yet we have so much freedom now.
I’m grateful that the vaccines are working and that serious illness and death is at a much lower rate, but everything still feels very fragile. More plans are being made, but infection or self-isolation requirements have led to so many changes of plan over the last few months that it’s hard to believe anything will happen until it actually does.
And then there’s concern over further variants or what the situation will be like during the winter. Are we truly emerging out of this pandemic, or is there more to come?
Aside from that, in two different situations concerning loved ones there has been the realisation that there will be no return to 2019 normal, and the path ahead is far from clear.
So, what do we do when we can’t see the way forward?
I have always had a tendency to fear the worst, but I don’t want to get stuck in a pattern of anxiety. I’d much rather fit the description from Proverbs 31:25:
“She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future.” (NLT)
I think a lot of it comes down to focus and where we are placing our hope. Are we building our lives on the shifting sands of circumstance or on the solid rock of God’s unchanging faithfulness?
It’s something I have been considering as I reflect on faithfulness – my word for the year – and I have loved reading the book and listening to the songs from the Faithful Project. As various authors and songwriters explore God’s faithfulness in the stories of women in the Bible, they encourage us to see his faithfulness in our own stories too.
I was particularly struck by an insight in the chapter by Ann Voskamp:
“Faith sees how there is much to give thanks for now, which gives much hope for the future. The same faithful God who is giving grace upon grace now will faithfully come to meet us in the future with grace upon grace.”
For four years now I’ve kept a gratitude journal. It’s become a practice at the end of the day. It only takes 30 seconds to jot down two or three things for which I’m thankful, but it’s been such a helpful habit. It has helped me to look for the good and reminded me that there are always reasons for gratitude.
But, I hadn’t really considered until now how that record of gratitude could build my confidence for the future.
It reminds me that God has been faithful. Every single day over the last four years, including sixteen months of pandemic disruption, there has been tangible evidence of this and reasons to give thanks. And I know the same was true even before I started documenting it. If God is the same, yesterday, today, and forever, why would the future be any different?
The future may be uncertain, and it will bring challenges, but we can move forward in faith, knowing we have a God who goes before us, and whose grace will meet us there.