Daily comforts and battles
There is something about rooibos tea that makes you want to go “aaaah”. The comfort and delight it brings to a tired mind and thirsty body is a best seller. Right up there with the other best sellers: falling asleep in my husband’s arms. Hearing my kids giggle about some mischief going on in one of their rooms (a very rare delight these days since teens and tweens don’t always mix that well). Holding our new sleeping puppy in my lap. So here’s a confession: I am a serious comfort creature. I am geared for “full suspension” experiences. For those who are not familiar with mountain bikes, it translates into having the most comfortable (and often most expensive) ride because of front and rear shocks on the bike. Anyway, I am big on the comforts in my life. A day without comfort sounds like a scene from the World War Z movie to me.
Yet here I am, I lost (or might lose soon) many of my comforts due to this COVID-19 stricken environment. If I let my mind slip into the darkness of looming fears, there’s enough going around to steal a lot of joy and comfort. The thoughts of all the comforts I might loose could easily engulf me. Will we be able to have enough income to cover all our obligations? Will our family go through this season without severe illness? Will my kids’ education be ok this year? Will we survive the lockdown family niggles? And on it goes…
Eternal comforts and battles
On a deeper existential level I know I can run to the comfort God provides in His promises and His presence. I have a deep and grounded comfort that everything will be OK. As a Christian I know God is good, God loves me and He is looking out for my best interest (Romans 8:28). His presence brings comfort and peace that is overwhelming. Someone who has not felt this yet will not understand it. It “surpasses all knowledge” as Paul states in Philippians 4:7. I know that this life is temporary and I can look forward to being comforted eternally when I will be with God in paradise after death. I know He is my comforter in suffering now and He will bring comfort to those suffering around me in good time if they abide in Him (2 Corinthians 1:3-7). All these truths bring a contentment and quietness to my soul. An everlasting source of “extreme rooibos tea”. I guess that is why Jesus said he is The Living Water, whoever comes to him will not thirst again (John 4:14).
But then there’s also the World War Z going on in my soul. Despite the deep comfort experienced as explained above, there’s something robbing me from joy, peace and comfort. Similar to this COVID-19 situation, it feels like it is always lurking somewhere in the shadows of my being. It is my inability to be on guard and catch my sin before it catches me. It’s the lack of self control in moments of frustration. It’s irritability and impatience in moments where patience and kindness are needed. This is the fruit of the spirit against the fruit of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-23). This inability to do the good that I so long to do is driving me insane. The Apostle Paul could identify with this, as he wrote to the Roman church that “I discover this principle: When I want to do what is good, evil is with me” (Romans 7:21).
The noodles incident
I will share the most current incident with you. Some of you may find resonance (if you are a mom during this time of lockdown). Others might find this really petty as one should really not be tripped up by such “small fry” issues. Anyway, I was the designated shopper for the day. My daughter indicated earlier in the week that she would like to prepare noodle recipe for us on Friday evening. I ran into a bit of trouble getting the ingredients; there was just no noodles to be found! Finally at the third stop I made (just in time as the doors were already closing), I have managed to find the prized object. Whoo hoo, my daughter will be so happy!
I have managed to serve her well! The meat was already taken out of the fridge at home. Now I must just get home so she could start with the prep. Got home, by then fairly tired and frustrated with all this hand sanitising, masking, etc. And the ever looming fear hit me:. Am I bringing the corona virus into the house? So, mission 1 : get to the bathroom to go and wash hands properly. I get into the house, aiming for the bathroom. I encounter my daughter before I can get to the bathroom. I share the exciting news that I found noodles after a big hunt. Unexpected reaction: my daughter wasn’t aware (or forgot) that the assigned time for her noodle making was tonight. She was not excited at all and started suggesting alternative recipes. Enters the annoyance. Before I knew it I started complaining and criticising. No guarding of my words there! My poor daughter tries to remedy the situation with her positive spirit, but as I am walking away from her (still aiming for mission 1 – washing hands) I stepped into a puddle of puppy pee. Failure 2: now the blame game starts, because no one attended to the dog while I was out of the house (or so I assumed). Paul (not the Apostle!) comes out to greet me and bumps into a grumpy Ronel. He sees the annoyance and the result is not good. Before I know it, I created a house full of unhappy family members.
Can this battle be won?
Now here comes the part where I must have an answer to this burning issue. How do I deal with getting a grip on my own sinfulness? The truth is I often feel like I don’t have a clue. How am I able to experience God’s rich love and everlasting comfort on the one hand, whilst this raging war is going on within me? I know the Bible gives many teachings about our spiritual growth in Christ. It does not portray any easy fixes. I know it encourages us to hold fast to the truth, to keep on trying, to persevere till we get it right or until we die. But the road sometimes feel very long and rocky and I am not traveling on a comfortable dual suspension mountain bike. I feel the bumps like when I ride a hard tail! More so, I know the people I love feel the bumps too. It feels like being on a storm at sea.
Maybe that is what Jesus tried to teach us with the story where Jesus slept while the disciples feared for their lives in a raging storm at sea (Matthew 8:23–27). This classic story teaches us that God is not taking the storms in life away but showing us how to endure that in Him. Maybe there is just no way around this fight, only that God will not leave or forsake me during the battle. I don’t know if this makes sense. This fight is not against anyone else nor is it against external influences. It is against my own COVID-19 scale sin inside. And it clings to me like… well. I have a not-yet-house-trained puppy in my house. Use your imagination.
Hang in there
I will continue to contemplate on this issue, but for now these words from letter to the Philippians gives me courage: Philippians 3:8-16 (hover).
Your struggle right now might very well differ from mine. Many friends have trouble understanding God’s grace and love, maybe you do too. Some might struggle with the concept of the trinity or coming to grips with our identity as his children. Some struggle to understand why there is so much suffering in the world and how do we keep on trusting God in times of hardship. They are genuine struggles and the “release-button” might feel like it is ever evading you.
For me right now though, I am trusting God to push the “release-button” on my struggle with this sin one day. Paul once told the Philippians: “I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus”. (Philippians 1:6) I believe this is true for me. And if you’re a follower of Jesus, it is true for you.
Hang in there.