“How are we ever gonna’ get through this?”
I hear (and ask!) this question frequently, especially as nearly everyone is being told to stay home to slow the spread of COVID-19 (Coronavirus 2019).
And then there are those who cannot stay home because they provide essential services. They have a very different endurance challenge as they ask, “How are we gonna’ get through this while we’re caring for others?”
I am learning anew a very old lesson. It was taught by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount.
“Set your heart on the kingdom and God’s goodness, and all these things will come to you as a matter of course. Don’t worry at all then about tomorrow. Tomorrow can take care of itself! One day’s trouble is enough for one day.” (Matthew 6:33-34 J. B. Phillips paraphrase).
These verses teach us not only about God’s promises and our priorities, but also about managing our perspective. I am calling this “spiritual double vision.”
Spiritual Double Vision
Jesus teaches us to concentrate on two focal points to develop and sustain our resilience:
First: Focus on the goal (“God’s Kingdom”).
Second: Be in the present moment (“one day’s trouble”).
I see an analogy with what ophthalmologists call monovision with contact lenses. Sounds like a contradiction to double vision, but keep reading! One website describes it this way, “Monovision involves wearing a contact lens on the non-dominant eye to correct near vision, and a contact lens on the dominant eye (if needed) to correct distance vision. Monovision works because the brain is tricked into thinking that the contact lens is actually a part of the natural eye.” (Source: https://www.verywellhealth.com/what-is-monovision-3421638)
In my analogy, one focal point for distance—for the goal. The other focal point for the near—for the present moment.
A Lesson from Cancer Surgery Recovery
More than seven years ago I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. That was a jolt. Double vision helped me get through my treatment and recovery.
People assured me I would be fine, that the Lord would get me through. I appreciated their reassurance. But there was no shortcut to recovery! I would go through a major surgery with significant physical “disruption” at the very core of my body.
Resilience came from disciplined focus. I got too discouraged when I thought about the weeks and months of recovery and the years of testing for recurrence. I drew strength by focusing on what I could do each day. I rested, walked, ate wisely, and paced my responsibilities. I practiced accepting what I could do and releasing what I couldn’t do.
We are all, in fact, stuck in the present moment. There’s no Fast-Forward to get through the sad, scary parts of life. There’s no Pause button to freeze the precious times. And there’s no Rewind for the “If only’s” and “What if’s” that can flood us with regret.
So how do we handle the future?
Looking Ahead Is Like Swimming Underwater
As a child I loved to swim underwater. We had contests to see who could stay under the longest and who could swim the farthest underwater. One thing was for sure: you can stay under, holding your breath, for only so long. Then you must return to the surface to breathe.
Looking into the future is underwater time (perhaps in more ways than one!). I have learned that, in a time like this, I can’t get too far ahead in anticipation without increasing anxiety. I can go there briefly—out of necessity for personal preparation and as a leader—but I must soon come back to the present moment. I just can’t stay under too long.
Be in the Present Moment
It’s the lesson of manna. When the Israelites had escaped Egypt and were traveling through the wilderness, God sustained them with manna. Manna was a miraculous food substance provided daily, with a double-portion given before the sabbath (Exodus 16). Manna, God’s daily provision, is the reference behind Jesus’ prayer for daily bread in the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:11).
We exercise faith, choosing to trust the Lord for today’s provision. Yes, it’s quite literally an exercise in discipline to say, “Lord, I trust you to provide what I, my family, my loved ones need today.” I’ve often said I would prefer to own a “bakery” so I would be assured of bread for years to come. God’s promise, however, is for today’s needs. By faith I know that’s better than my bakery!
Learn to Cope With A Fuzzy Future
One of the resources from Alcoholic Anonymous, Day By Day (published by Hazelden), begins January 1 with this wise insight:
“It is not always easy to do what is necessary today, but it is impossible to change yesterday or to guarantee what tomorrow will bring. Our year will unfold better by living each day as it comes than it will by regretting the past or anticipating the future.”
Real double vision makes everything look out of focus. With spiritual double vision, we have to learn to cope with a “fuzzy future.” But the good news is that we will have far more clarity, peace and strength for the present moment.