The other day I took our dog for a walk to a quiet place not far from our house. While I was walking– trying to let go of some stress and worrisome thoughts, to be honest– I started to smell something rather unsavory.
It wasn’t super strong, so I wasn’t sure where it was coming from, but it wouldn’t go away either. This was sort of in the periphery of my mind, until I turned the corner again (it’s sort of a circular route) and passed by a spot that smelled stronger than others. This caused me to look down, and sure enough, there was an offering from a dog that had been there for awhile.
Since I could see it wasn’t a fresh offering, I knew that it on its own should not have been the reason for the smell. So I looked down, and as you may have guessed, there was evidence of that offering on the bottom of my shoe. All of a sudden, it made a lot of sense why I hadn’t been able to get away from the smell.
While I admit this isn’t the most savory example to start off with on a Sunday morning, it does seem to be a pretty good illustration for some of the things that have been happening lately. Because the reality is that there are things in life that stink. And sometimes, unlike me being able to wipe off my shoe, you just can’t make that stink go away.
We have plenty of recent examples of this reality related to COVID-19: people unexpectedly losing their jobs, the incredible pressure on healthcare professionals, the vast number of people who have gotten sick and died. There are also plenty of examples related to systemic injustice, political turmoil, and natural disasters.
There are no easy or simple answers to all that is happening and has happened. The reality is that there are few areas of our lives that this virus and the tension in our society hasn’t touched. And often, lives are touched in ways that we don’t necessarily see.
That’s why, in addition to taking necessary steps to protect yourself and those around you, it’s important to take some time each day to breathe deep, to take notice of the things we have to be grateful for, and to allow God’s Spirit to minister to us.
When I am feeling overwhelmed by worry or anxiety related to the uncertainty of these times, I need to get out of my own head to be reminded of God’s truth and God’s goodness. One of the ways I do that is by listening to uplifting music, and I am often struck by what a difference doing so can make.
Another thing that often helps– although it does require a bit more intentionality– is surrendering my worries, fear, and anxiety about what I can’t control to God. Surrendering doesn’t mean that we give up or that we give up hope. Rather, it means that we accept what we cannot change and focus instead on what we can do to be healthy, manage our emotions, and take the actions that will move us to being calmer and more at peace. It means, as it says in 1 Peter, to “Cast your cares on God because God cares for you.”
This is an important verse to keep in mind, because it reminds us that, despite any evidence to the contrary, God is near; God is in control; and God will provide.
Even for those who are in Christ, there is no getting around the fact that some things in life really stink. Or that sometimes, there is nothing we can do to make that stink go away. But it’s in those times, that the promise of the resurrection is most real.
In fact, sometimes, it’s when we have nothing left to lose that we learn most fully that there really is nothing that can separate us from the love of Jesus, and that our hope in Christ is not in vain. May that truth hem you in behind and before today.