The COVID-19 pandemic and its subsequent and seemingly ever-extending quarantine has been getting to all of us in one way or another. I know it’s been getting to me.
This post kind of goes along with one I had written previously about looking on the bright side of this pandemic (When We Need Time to Think), while acknowledging how scary and upsetting it is.
I wish everyone in my life could acknowledge that.
We might know someone who, when we go to them with a problem or fear, seems to default to “It’s really not as bad as you think!” or, “Just let God handle it!” Like we don’t know that in the first place.
I’ve been seeing this term, “Toxic Positivity” a lot lately. While it might sound a little dramatic, for lack of a better term, I have found it to be pretty spot-on in regards to what I’ve been experiencing from some people.
One source defines Toxic Positivity as, “The over-generalization of a happy, optimistic state that results in the denial, minimization and invalidation of the authentic human emotional experience.”
Like I said, I know this whole situation and the things that have been resulting from it are in God’s hands, but to hear it thrown at me in response to my genuine plea for commiseration does feel invalidating.
I was doing a little research to see if anyone else had written about toxic positivity dealing with the faith and the church, and sure enough, I’m not the first one to say something about this topic. In my reading, I came across a personal story of tragedy from another Christian blogger, and towards the end of his post, he says this:
“The same prophets that said the joy of the Lord is their strength and that God had plans for (them) wrote about mourning and loss. An entire book of ‘Lamentations.'”
So I decided to pick up my over 20-year-old bible and read through Lamentations. During my reading, I found quite a few verses that resonated with me and my current situation.
Lamentations 1:1 starts strong saying, “How doth the city sit solitary, that was full of people!” Every day I look around the small city I live in that was once bustling with activity and see how barren it seems now that people have been confined to their homes. It’s a little unsettling.
It continues in the second verse, “She weepeth sore in the night, and her tears are on her cheeks.” (Lamentations 1:2). I’ve never related to anything more in my life right now. I can’t remember a night where I haven’t either totally cried myself to sleep or at least shed a few solemn tears after good night prayers with my children.
Then in Lamentations 2:6 it says, “the Lord hath caused the solemn feasts and sabbaths to be forgotten…” This could be a parallel for all the cancelled plans we have been experiencing because of social distancing orders. I’m sure many of us are lamenting the family reunions, proms, and conventions that will never be this year.
Lamentations 3:17 continues, “And thou has removed my soul far off from peace: I forgat prosperity. And I said, My strength and my hope is perished from the Lord.” I feel like the news keeps getting worse and worse every day, and I feel my hope running out.
As of writing this article, I know 5 people personally who either have a confirmed case of COVID-19, or a strongly suspected case of it. All five people seem to be doing fine, thankfully, but it’s all still a little too close to home. Literally.
I can’t help but feel like God is so far away during times like these. Even though I know that’s not true.
In that same chapter, it says: “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning… the Lord is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him.” (Lamentations 3:22-23, 25)
It continues, “For the Lord will not cast off for ever: but though he cause grief, yet will he have compassion according to the multitude of his mercies.” (Lamentations 3:31-32)
Times are hard right now. There’s no sugar-coating it. Okay, so there might be some silver linings to all of this, but whatever linings those may be feel awfully thin most of the time.
Still, God is merciful to His children.
“Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the Lord.” (Lamentations 3:40). During times of crisis, sometimes we might feel ourselves distanced from God as we give in to feelings of hopelessness. But maybe it’s during these same times that we should take some time to reassess how we have been walking with God, and try to pick up the pace.
Lamentations 5:19-21 closes out the final chapter asking, “Thou, O Lord, remainest for ever; thy throne from generation to generation. Wherefore dost thou forget us for ever, and forsake us so long time? Turn thou us unto thee, O Lord, and we shall be turned; renew our days as of old.”
I’ve been praying for all of this to stop soon and for things to go back to normal, as I’m sure you all have. It can be hard to remain hopeful when it feels like there isn’t an end in sight.
When we lament to our different family members in Christ, we are entrusting them to help guide us through what we’re going through. But when we’re met with what can be perceived as “toxic positivity,” it can sometimes feel more like a slight judgment and question to our faith than a solution to our problem.
Some of the most prominent biblical figures lamented. Christ Himself lamented. There isn’t anything inherently wrong with lamenting, I don’t think. If it helps keep us from stewing on faith-damaging emotions, I might even go so far as to say it’s healthy once in a while.
So to anyone else having a hard time with all of this, I encourage you to find someone you can lament to who will not serve you toxic positivity, but instead understand your feelings and help you find constructive ways to work through them. Whether that’s someone in your day to day life, or someone from the Geeks Under Grace community, or even a faith-based therapist if you can find one, it’s more important now than ever to reach out. Though for now we must remain apart, we don’t have to remain alone.