Be Still and know that I am God. (Psalm 46:10)
Hands up all those who have reached the point of 'overwhelmed'? You too? Welcome to the club!
Most of the world seems to have moved online, making it an even noisier place than it was before (virtually speaking).
We have people giving ideas about what to do and plenty offering free stuff to watch. There are oodles and oodles of things to do with your children, and lots of political comment, a lot of it unhelpful and which certainly isn't helping the digital overload.
And for the first time since the inter-web came into existence, we have a host of online/livestreamed/recorded church activities.
I've been hearing from people who are now so overloaded with information, they don't know what to do.
When I first trained as a children's nurse, I was told not to give too much choice to children. In the stressful environment of hospital, too much choice could add to the stress. I saw the results of this when well meaning parents brought in sack fulls of stuff for a child to do and as a result, their children went into meltdown mode. They didn't need the toys. They needed a cuddle and to know they were loved.
This is what I'm now seeing, and not just in children. Everybody is scared and stressed, and at the same time are being bombarded with too much online 'stuff', and it's not helping.
Against this noisy backdrop, "be still and know that I am God" is a helpful verse at this time.
It doesn't mean being physically still. Some say it's literal translation is "shut up" and know. I think of it more like, just stop what you're doing for a moment, stop your busyness and noise – and remember: I am God.
I too was tempted to go into overdrive and release stuff to help families, but on observing how much was already out there, I stopped. Yes, I have the gifts to do something, but now is not the time. Maybe later when families have worked through the plethora of what is already available, I will do something online. But for now, I'm just signposting to the most appropriate thing for each family, each couple, each person on their own, because each will need different things.
And it's important to say to families: you don't have to do everything. This is NOT home schooling. It's finding a pace and routine that fits your family. Like those families I met when nursing, your children just need to be held, physically or metaphorically, and know they are loved. They need to know it's ok to worry and be afraid – admit your own fear and model a godly way forward within that fear.
And those of us with no children at home, I'm also giving you permission to just stop. Be still. Wait and ponder.
In the midst of this chaos, find your level. I'm writing this looking out over my garden and watching the birds – for them, the world is going on as normal.
If you're feeling guilty because your ministry doesn't have an online presence, don't worry. Be there for the one. The one person, the one family, the one neighbour. It's still ministry. It's unseen, but it's still valuable.
If you're feeling guilty because you can't help everyone, don't. That overwhelmed state will lead to being unable to do anything for anyone. Stop, be still and pray. It is so easy to be overwhelmed with grief for so many struggling at this time, so think: is there just one thing where you can make a difference? Choose and stick to that thing and do it well.
Be prayerful of other situations, but recognise you can't do everything. There will be others who will choose a different 'one thing'. That one thing may well be just looking out for your family so that resources can go to those who have no family.
If you are in the group who have to self-isolate for 12 weeks (like-myself) maybe find one of those apps that let you design a postcard and write it, and then the app prints and posts it for you. There are many who cannot get online to whom a postcard is a precious thing they can keep and go back to.
Lastly, regarding the amount of spiritual content online, you don't have to connect with all of it. If you have a regular church, connect with the things they are doing online but choose what is helpful for you. Choose things that still you, reset you and build you.
If your church doesn't have the resources to do this, look for another online church you can align and stick with. There are many that have been in existence for longer than the virus has been around – they know what they are doing. Building relationship in one place will be more valuable than virtual fellowship hopping.
Personally, I'm just sticking with what my church family are doing, and connecting with Malcolm Duncan's Facebook live prayers in the evening.
You have permission to stop, re-calibrate and think. Even if you are a person with no faith, the statement 'be still', to stop and take time, is a good thing for your mental health and that of your family. But there is also huge comfort in knowing that we can be still and know that God is God.
In the absence of physical hugs, may you be aware of a virtual hug from God.
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