Trapped: Informed and Isolated

By Jessica Selway

Around March 1st, I finally plugged in our Christmas gift, a Google Home, and began the “good morning Google” news routine. With each day, news coverage of COVID-19 increased. By mid-March every topic, from travel to toilet paper and sports tournaments, centered around COVID-19.

Early on, news was vital to setting my expectations. From rethinking my teaching, checking on sickly relatives and canceling travel plans, I found myself undoing long-established routines as the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded. Then, overnight everything stopped.

I imagine most of you share in the events and feelings of a different yet similar version of my story. From adapting to missing grocery items (raiding cheese? digestive issues anyone?) or kids schooling from home to loss of work or sickness, these are sudden and dramatic shifts in our lives. Our bodies, hearts, and minds are trying and struggling to keep up.

At this point in our stay-at-home, shelter-in-place, whatever-you-want-to-call-it journey, we’ve become accustomed to regularly following the news. Maybe you check in via Google, scroll through news feeds, or watch DeWine’s daily pressers. Pick your poison–ugh–healthy source of information and you’ve jumped into a bottomless pit.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m thankful for leaders like Governor Mike DeWine and Director of Health Amy Acton’s commitment to clearly communicating facts, updates, and keeping us safe.

However, the longer I’m separated from loved ones, I become increasingly prone to uncertainty and worry. Fear and anxiety set in as my body tightens. Still, it’s “Good morning Google” and scroll for the latest numbers. Statistics are often told in the scariest light, that predicticted casualties are comparable to losses experienced in wars. Friends near and strangers far are out of work. And then there’s the graphs. Endless data showing exponential growth of the spreading virus and looming economic recession. Personally most alarming are heartbreaking stories of families losing loved ones and, due to social distancing, never getting to say goodbye.

I feel trapped in this pit of information. How did I get here? I’m no longer wading in a puddle, but tossed by waves (Ephesians 4:14). Instead of soothing worries, the news leaves me more undone.

So from my pit, where do I look?

Well, I could look deeper into the dark mound of news articles that once steadied my spirit.

But I long for more. For lasting light, satisfaction and peace. I picture hugging loved ones, teaching and laughing with coworkers. But right now none of that is possible. Even these good things aren’t a lasting fix.

If I’ve found that consuming more news increases my anxiety, it’s not the way out. Instead, consider that Hebrews 12:2 says, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.” We’re commanded to look up, fixing our gaze unwaveringly on Jesus, whose name literally means God Saves.

Friends, Jesus knows. He knows, in its fullness, what it means to actually know something. Jesus’ knowing is nothing like our panic-induced consumption of facts and graphs. When you look up, see our Savior who knows your exact situation. He knows your pain, fear, worry and anxiety. Jesus knows emphatically your experience. Jesus walked this earth, endured the cross, scorning it’s humiliating shame and now sits at the right hand of God. (Hebrews 12:2) And he did it all for the joy set before him! So if the suffering of the cross led to joy then Jesus can lead you toward joy in your suffering. Guys, he knows, he gets it, but he also knows the joy that is coming! (James 1:2) For Jesus, it is a joy to know you in your pit, to walk with you and help tip your head up toward the Father.

Proactively speaking, consider cutting back on tuning into DeWine, the 24 second news cycle and make time for looking up. Consider what rhythms and activities truly nourish your soul. Prayer? Meditation? Start with something small and realistically doable, like taking five minutes to read a Psalm or pausing and finding a private and quiet place to pray. Ask the Holy Spirit for His help. For just fives minutes, try looking up.

“The Lord is my light and salvation,
Whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life,
Of whom shall I be afraid?”
Psalm 27: 1-2