Anyone else feeling tired and overwhelmed? They say it’s ‘quarantine fatigue’ but I’m not so sure…

Is it just me, or have you been feeling fatigued and weighed down by the worries of the world? Are you experiencing days when you wake up and wish that it were already time for bed? Does it feel near impossible to focus on a simple task for work? Are you not able to motivate yourself, let alone all the people that rely on you at work or at home? Or, perhaps even more frustrating, can you not do your job because the person you rely on, simply doesn’t have the energy or direction to do theirs? If only it were already 2021, right? 

Do a quick internet search on ‘quarantine fatigue’ and you will see article upon article discussing our collective feeling of tiredness and how best to beat it. The sheer number of articles, linked articles, nested articles, blogs, tweets etc. on the topic is fatiguing to think of. This tiredness, it’s too much. Coronavirus is too much. Everything feels like too much. ‘God how long can this go on? Can’t you see it’s crippling me, crippling everyone?’ 

Having experienced the physical fatigue that often accompanies Covid-19, the kind of tiredness that keeps you in bed all day as the body aches and the headache feels like it’s teetering on the edge of explosion, what I feel now is something very different. I wonder if what I am feeling is not ‘quarantine fatigue’ but grief. 

Grief, as defined by my Apple Pages writing software, is ‘deep sorrow, especially that caused by someone’s death.’  To define it further: sorrow is ‘a feeling of deep distress caused by a loss, disappointment or other misfortune suffered by oneself or others, and distress is ‘extreme anxiety or pain’.  I do not doubt that I, and much of the globe’s population, as we watch our nations, families, and friends lose loved ones and face unemployment, social unrest and upheaval, we are living through a prolonged period of grief…and, until that elusive vaccine, there is no end in sight. Could the entire world be living through a period of grief? 

For me, my tipping point was the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Police Officer in the United States and the subsequent protests, violence and looting. Then seeing businesses burning that I would frequent in Los Angeles up in flames; it broke me. For I saw the deep scars, pain, hurt, anger, despair, rage, and grief of an entire community of people ripped open and laid bare. The truth can not be denied: we are a broken people living in a broken world. And Coronavirus, our unseen enemy, makes ground every day. Our cries for justice, our grief, is surely heard throughout the universe. For we are ‘exhausted and completely crushed. (our) groans come from an anguished heart. (Psalm 38:8) 

Until today, I have not been able to bring myself to blog. And even now, I still don’t know what to say. I am as lost for words as I am in thought. I have no answers. No solutions. I am but a small voice in an increasingly loud world. What, if anything, could I blog about that might encourage you? That might bring you peace? That might inspire you to read God’s word? That might be an answer, or insight, into an unspoken question you have? How could I possibly think that I could be a little of a light to you when the world that we knew crumbles beneath our feet and nothing seems to make sense? I have been overwhelmed with sadness, with confusion, with grief. It’s not just because of injustice, it’s everything. And I’m going to guess that you feel it too. 

I did make a few attempts to blog. I have been reading about King David and King Saul. I finished the books of Matthew, Mark, Judges, and Joshua, as well as reading most of the Book of Psalms. There’s a lot of topics I could have chosen to blog about but nothing felt appropriate. Personally, I was encouraged by David’s years in the wilderness and, as it touched on a previous post of mine (Is it just me or does isolation feel like a wilderness?), I could have easily written something about it – Specifically that David spent about a decade in the wilderness running for his life even after God (and Samuel the Prophet) had anointed him as the next King of Israel – talk about a long time waiting for an answer to prayer! I found many Psalms of David to be relevant and encouraging (honestly, given his struggles and persecution, his songs and poetry are extraordinary), but I still couldn’t bring myself to write.  

So why today? Why is today so different? Well, I think it’s because I am finally able to recognize, to define, what it is that we are all going through. It’s not fatigue, it’s grief. We’re grieving loss that our generation has not known before. Lost jobs, lost health, lost lives, lost childhood, lost economy, lost connections with family and friends, lost education, lost birthdays, lost weddings, lost funerals, lost church, lost entertainment, lost travel, lost opportunities, and lost freedoms. We’ve also managed to lose faith in the democracies and nations of the world we live in. Nothing is certain. All is unknown. Together we cry out for God’s help and together we can weep and mourn for ‘Morning, noon and night (we) cry out in our distress and the Lord hears (our) voice.’ (Psalm 55:17.) 

So, I’ve cut myself some slack for not being able to blog. For, in periods of grieving, it is better not to say anything and just listen.

Listen and pray. 

Listen to my prayer, O God. Do not ignore my cry for help! Please listen and answer me, for I am ovewhelmed by my troubles.’ (Psalm 55:1-2)

Pray for our world leaders. Pray for God’s presence to be found and known. Pray for revival. Pray for God’s will to be done here as it is in heaven. Pray for healing. Pray for peace. Pray for the families of those who have lost love ones. Pray for those who are sick. Pray for a vaccine….the list goes on. 

God is listening. He is waiting for us to seek him. He wants us to trust him. He desires for us to be in relationship with him so that, and because of, ‘God’s tender mercy, the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace’. (Luke 1:78-79.) 

Sometimes I think the God in the Old Testament can’t be the God in the New Testament. Who is he? What is his character? Did he change?

I recently began reading J.I Packer’s book Knowing God. I didn’t get far into it before I was confronted with the statement ‘Those who know God show great boldness for God’. Summing up my existence and ‘slow burn’ christian faith, I realized that I don’t know God at all. Yes, I know stories of Jesus and the Old Testament (OT) but I really don’t know who God is. I suppose a reason for this is that I have always felt more akin and comfortable with the God whom Jesus reflects and speaks of; ‘God is love’ (1 John 4:8). But the other God, or the other version of God in the OT, him I’m not so sure about. Verses like Joshua 7:15, ‘(the sinner)…will be burned with fire, along with everything he has (meaning his entire family), for he has broken the covenant of the Lord and has done a horrible thing in Israel’, cause me distress. How could this ‘all loving, all caring God’, do this? Surely, this is not the ‘father’ that Jesus reflects and prays to? 

Various violent acts and absolute statements in the OT can leave many christians stumped. I know of people who no longer, or who have not read, the OT. I also know people who are lost for words when asked by unbelievers to explain the OT and why they would ever believe in a such God. I also know believers (and in this case I’m one of them) who are reluctant to show their faith at all in the presence of, what I would call, an evangelical atheist. I admit it, I am not bold in faith at all. But I’d like to be. So who is this God? Did he change or is the same? How do I reconcile these apparent two versions of God? And where, if at all, can I find the link in the Bible?

In a previous post, I briefly touch on how the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ changed how we live and how we view each other. In him we learnt to love our neighbor as ourselves, to lay our life down for others, to turn the other cheek, and that we should behave peacefully and respectfully to all for God is love. So we then, should love one another. Christ and his teachings provided cohesion to the world. For from this point in time, civilization evolved in this framework and now we feel that sending armies to conquer a land and destroy it’s inhabitants is horrific (to say the least). Our thoughts, our ethics and morals have changed. Prior to the coming of Christ (and I’m still studying all of this so I won’t give an in-depth answer for now), the world was a very violent, waring place with no human rights or laws in place to protect the vulnerable. So to read the OT is to step back to a time that is difficult for us to comprehend or empathize with. The books and events wherein could not be more disturbing, alarming, baffling, different, and peculiar. Yet, the more I read of it, the more similarities I can see in God’s character as we know of him from the NT; the more I can recognize the God I am familiar with, and the more I agree with the statement in Malachi 3:6 ‘I am the Lord, and I do not change’.  It is a liberating and bold thing to know. 

Have you ever read the Psalms? It is a book of poetry and song written to worship God and it is written a long time before the birth of Jesus. In it, the authors use the most expressive and heartfelt emotion to describe their relationship with God, their sins, their longing, and their love towards a God they know to have ‘unfailing love’ for them, whom they call their ‘rock and salvation’, and who they describe as ‘trustworthy’, ‘gracious and merciful’ and as a ‘shelter’ worthy of all praise. Sounds a lot like Jesus and his father, right? The Psalmists also cry out to God for him to ‘Punish the wicked…(and) Break the arms of these wicked, evil people! Go after them until the last one is destroyed…The godless nations will vanish from the land.’ (Psalm 10: 13,15,16b)  Um…what the heck? Obviously, they live in a very different time to us!

Does it surprise you, as it did me, to know that the Psalmist, in this case King David, was referring to the God of the OT, the God pre-Jesus, and the God as described in the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible? How did King David get this version of God? How did he see God as having unfailing love when God wiped a generation of Israelites off the planet for disobeying him? King David knew something of God that we can easily forget. He knew that God was just. He knew that God commanded obedience. He knew God to be compassionate and gracious. He knew that God demanded purity and reverence. Mostly, he knew that he himself was full of sin. And in those days, sin and disobedience were dealt almost immediately. In contrast, in our post-messiah-arrival world, we now wait for God to bring justice to the oppressed, to the wronged, and to the faithful – which he promises to do at the end of time. Until then God is giving the world time for the Kingdom of God to grow; for the full measure of those who will call Christ Lord.  

The prophetic description of judgment in New Testament is reminiscent of the violence and death we see in the OT. John 12:48 is blunt: ‘But all who reject me and my message will be judged on the day of judgment by the truth I have spoken.’ Romans 2:5 is terrifying: ‘But because you are stubborn and refuse to turn from your sin, you are storing up terrible punishment for yourself. For a day of anger is coming, when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.’  

In the NT, for those people who do not love and follow Jesus, God’s son, Jesus wasn’t and isn’t always peace and love. In the OT, for those people who do not obey God and ‘brazenly violate the Lord’s will…have blasphemed the Lord and they must be cut off from the community. Since they ave treated the Lord’s word with contempt, they must…suffer the punishment for their guilt? (Numbers 15:30) Spot any similarity? Would God, if he was different say practically the same thing over 2000 years later? There is solidarity in the Word of God if you look for it. (There’s also a lot more blessing, love, goodness, and grace than God smiting the sinner if you’re taking a tally.)

Reading four consecutive chapters a day from a variety of books (today it was Deuteronomy, Joshua, Psalms and Matthew) I have been able to perceive the piecing together of one giant story.  From the beginning to end, Genesis to Revelation, God is recognizable as the same God.  He does not change. The world he operates in may change, but he does not. In being able to discern this, I am beginning to see his full character. He is, at once, loving and just; for to be loving and gracious is to be just. His unfailing love for his people is to be jealous for their affection. To demand obedience is to shelter and protect. To love is also to hate sin – the very thing that makes us unclean in God’s eyes. To send His very own son to bear the burden of sin is to provide grace – an undeserved grace. To kill then, can be to save.

God’s offer of salvation through Jesus Christ is available to everyone for God is love. And for you and I as we choose to trust and love Him, in our efforts to desire to know Him more we need to understand live out Christ’s directive: Love your neighbor for ‘anybody that does not love does not know God.’ (1 John 4:8)

This world we live in is crying out for love, for more of God’s presence and love. As we love and respect each other, we can be God’s light to each other and in turn, God will reveal more of himself, his heart, to us and to those that we serve. 

(Please note that I am not a theologian or an historian, just an average person trying to make sense of all of this. I am however, trying to read as much as I can on the topic discussed. Thank you.)

My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts are higher than your thoughts

Isaiah 55:8-9

The Israelites in their wilderness saw God, they saw his incredible miracles and they still doubted. I don’t see God, is he talking to me at all?

Three weeks ago I began reading the books of Exodus and Deuteronomy. Aside from skimming over the details for the building and presentation of the Arc of the Covenant and the Tabernacle, I read it as closely as I could. I underlined, I made notes, I asked questions, and I discussed it with a person who knows the scriptures better than most (my mother). I wasn’t surprised by the violence; ancient cultures are known to have been barbaric. The strangeness of the plagues God used to expel his people from Egypt didn’t astonish me for I have known this story since childhood however, I found myself in awe of the constant complaints and failure of the Israelites. I came to understand that Exodus and Deuteronomy are not only about how God rescued his people from slavery, it is a record of how the Israelites kept getting it wrong. And in their failure, this record stands as example of God’s perfect and loving grace. 

I was dumbstruck to learn that within days of fleeing Egypt many Israelites (or Hebrews as they were known as at the time) doubt God’s deliverance and wish to return to slavery for ‘its better to be a slave in Egypt than a corpse in the wilderness’ (Ex 14:12). I could not believe that even after they witness the extraordinary parting of the red sea, experience God providing care, food and water for them in the wilderness, and seeing God’s daily guidance and protection manifest in a pillar of cloud in the day and a pillar of fire at night, they still doubt! Can you believe that before the first year is out they even take their jewelry and form a carved idol, which they then celebrate with a big party declaring that idol to be the god who brought them out of Egypt? (Ex 32:1-8) How did these people forget him so quickly? Did they have amnesia? 

In 2020, thousands of years after these events, it’s easy to judge the Israelites. They had physical proof that God was with them! They witnessed miracle after miracle! They were guided daily by God who even went ahead of them and chose the best campsites for them to dwell in (Duet 1: 32-33), but they still didn’t trust the Lord God! And here we are in May 2020 never having seen, or likely to ever see, anything remotely like this, yet we are still asked to put our trust in him? They had it so easy! So much easier than us. God appeared to them, time and time again, but there are probably millions of Christians today who don’t even believe that God has ever, or will ever, communicate with him. To him, he’s a distant God, not an interventional God, but one still worth believing him. When comparing us to the Israelites at the time of the Exodus with a God that so obviously showed up, it is difficult to comprehend their mistrust of him. Worse, when God after a short time takes them to the Promised Land and tells them to enter it, they refuse in fear. They still do not trust him. Their failure in this resulted in another forty years in the wilderness!

I wonder, what would my belief have looked like if I was among the Israelites? Would I have given my jewelry to be melted down and made into an idol? Would I have failed at the tests God gave them? Tests that God had already provided the answer for? What about you? Do you think you would have trusted him? When overlooking for the first time the land that God had promised to give them, all they had to do was enter and take it, instead they let their own fear and worry consume them. By not trusting and obeying God, they missed the blessings he had prepared for them and they were ordered back into the desert to learn again what God had already taught them – ‘Trust me and I will provide for you’.

Covid-19 and the enforced isolation that comes with it, feels (and looks) like a wilderness. It is unknown, it is mundane, it is a place a fear and loneliness, it is something all of us wish to turn away from. But I must wonder are God’s blessings, his provision and his very presence in this Coronavirus desert too? This may be a time of unprecedented change, worry, sickness and grief (don’t forget boredom too) but it can also be a time of trust, peace, faith and understanding. We may not have pillars of clouds or fire to guide us but God has already provided guidance for us in his word. 

The bible isn’t a book about God’s commands, punishment and law, it’s a book expressing God’s grace and unfailing love to a people who continually failed him. It’s a book that can be a light upon our path as we walk through these days. It is a book with a personal message of hope for you and I, if we decide to take the time to read it. The more I read it, the more I can see that God’s plan was, and will always be, good for those who put their trust in him. What will you discover?

 The wilderness the Israelites experienced destroyed many of them. My prayer for you and I is that this wilderness called Covid-19 and all the stress and discomfort it brings will not be a time of failure to trust, or a failure to hope or a lack of wanting to seek God, but rather a time of growth and blessing as we search for and rest in his comfort and guidance…as we seek him – the God who wants us to remember the miracles he did to rescue his people, knowing that one day when our time to be on this earth would come about that we would be blessed by what he did then.  I wonder, was King David thinking of the Exodus when he wrote Psalm 25:6 ‘Remember O Lord, your compassion and unfailing love, which you have shown from ages past.’ His love, the same love that dragged a stubborn people out of slavery so that he could honor his promise and bless them, is the love that God still has for his people, all people today.  Just now to trust him. 

“Remember how the Lord your God led you through the wilderness for these forty years humbling you and testing you to prove your character, and to find out whether or not you would obey his commands…He did it to teach you that people do not live by bread alone; rather, we live by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord” 

Deuteronomy 8:2-7 NLT