Remember Places? Once upon a time, I had meetings and appointments and places and plans. I can remember a day when those things were still things people had in their lives.
Back then, life was full. But then came March. And oh, what a blur of awfulness. Toilet paper shopping … quarantining … school cancelling … sport cancelling … trip cancelling … fever checking … friends losing jobs and moving away … hornets murdering. I mean, 2020 really jumped the shark, and life has become masks and Zoom and home and fear and loneliness. Right?
So, what does that mean for those of us who, prior to this year, were often clinging to our schedules for security and purpose and meaning? What does that mean for those of us who were already anxious and struggling to have healthy relationships? And what happens when COVID loneliness and anxiety crash into holiday-season loneliness and anxiety? Do they cancel each other out? Do they smash into each other and become a giant snowball avalanche thing—like the Indiana Jones ball that rolls really fast and smooshes everything? Is there a name for that? Is there a name for double anxiety and double loneliness simultaneously? Is its name 2020? And is there any hope for these things?
Calm down, self. And, yes. There is always hope. Despite how 2020 has affected my relationships and exaggerated my fears, God has shown Himself present and beautiful and compassionate all the more. Here are some things I’m reflecting on this holiday season as I fight for comfort and joy through this lonely, anxiety-filled year.
Despite how 2020 has affected my relationships and exaggerated my fears, God has shown Himself present and beautiful and compassionate all the more.
The Bible is Better Than Amazon.
Here are some things I own that 2020 loneliness and anxiety led me to purchase. I’m going to share the items I clicked “Buy Now” on and exactly how long they made me happy.
- Nail dip kit, in March, while the nail salons were closed (Happy for one day, until I had an allergic reaction to the powder and had to get a steroid shot.)
- Bluetooth keyboard for my iPad (maybe one minute)
- New clothing steamer because mine broke (four seconds)
- Fake leather oxford-style heels (They look beat up after one wear.)
- An essential oil blend that smells like fall (one to three sniffs)
Do you see where I’m going with this? Yesterday, some news channel I was watching said that on Election Day, Americans spent something like two billion dollars while online stress shopping.1 That lets me know I’m not alone in this. Whether it’s Amazon Prime, or Peanut M&Ms® or TV shows, we are wired to look for relief in things that don’t relieve. We seek the most fleeting of comforts. (It was one sniff.)
In this lonely and worrisome season, look to the one place with comfort that goes the distance. Open the one Word that overflows with life. In Psalm 19:10 David says the words of the Bible “are more desirable than gold” and “sweeter than honey” (CSB). They are, you guys. More precious than gold or sugar or fresh nails or oh yeah, I forgot, also fuzzy leopard print ten-dollar moccasins that actually make your feet too warm. The contents of your cart can’t satisfy you. Never. But God’s Word is precious. God’s Word gives life (Psalm 119:25). God’s Word dispels the lies we believe when we worry or when we feel alone (2 Timothy 3:16). And God’s Word endures forever (1 Peter 1:25).
There’s Comfort in Community.
Togetherness can make me uncomfortable. I think that’s true for a lot of us. We might isolate/shy away/close off/face punch the people in our lives, hoping to feel safe and free from conflict. But God designed us to thrive in community with other believers. God uses others in our lives to encourage, to comfort, to help, to heal. Perhaps the most crucial depiction of this is the example of the early church we read about in Acts 2.
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer.
Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and signs were being performed through the apostles. Now all the believers were together and held all things in common. They sold their possessions and property and distributed the proceeds to all, as any had need. Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple, and broke bread from house to house. They ate their food with joyful and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. Every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved” (vv. 42-47, CSB).
Beautiful, right? But we’ve been 2020-ed. As soon as someone breaks bread, no one else can touch it. So how do we navigate sharing and caring and community in a culture that’s masked, scared, and hunkered down? How can we be together when we can’t all be together?
I’m finding it helpful not to focus on the all of community, but on the some. I can’t wait for thousands everywhere to worship together, singing full volume with faces masked no more. But right now, today, three little girls and a husband are in my home who need the grace of God I can share with them. I have a circle of friends I can love and serve no matter how long it takes things to get “back to normal.” I have neighbors who need Jesus and less things to distract me from telling them about Him. I have friends who need comfort and more time to give it. I have a family to grow toward Christ with, and we have more time together than ever.
When it comes to community, try not to think about what you are missing and why you are missing it and how long it might be missed. The mission of Jesus hasn’t stopped in 2020, but maybe it has gotten a little more focused and a little less templated. Thank God for the community you have this holiday season and try to be the community they need.
God is With Us.
Yes, 2020 has made us sick and scared and lonely. And so many realities can lead to loneliness and fear, for sure. But remember, we’re holiday-ing because of the very reality that we are not alone. The prophet Isaiah said, “Therefore, the Lord himself will give you a sign: See, the virgin will conceive, have a son, and name him Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14, CSB). And there He is. Jesus—star of the Bible, light of the world, hope for 2020 and forevermore. In the gospel of Matthew, we read, “Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: See, the virgin will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and they will name him Immanuel, which is translated, ‘God is with us’” (Matt. 1:22-23, CSB).
We are more isolated this year. That can’t be denied. But through the birth and death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we are never alone. God is with us. In the way that matters most, things can’t be more OK. God is with us.
We may be missing hugs and friends. We may have forgotten what peoples’ noses and mouths look like, but “… now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God” (Rom. 5:11, NLT).
We feel lonelier this year, but we’re not alone. We feel more anxious this year, but God is with us, and He says, “Be anxious for nothing” (Phil. 4:6, NKJV). He is sovereign over all. He is better than life. He is hope for a maskless, sinless, sicknessless future.
He is, in fact, the “thrill of hope.” “The weary world rejoices / For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn …” 2
So, join me in remembering our Hope, this season. Join me in celebrating Jesus Christ, because Christmas is coming. And after that, eternity!
Scarlet Hiltibidal’s new Bible study, Anxious: Fighting Anxiety with the Word of God, releases in August 2021. In this 8-session study, learn that when we fear the Lord rather than fearing the brokenness in our world, we are able to take hold of the perfect peace that is only available in Him. Click here to learn more.
Scarlet Hiltibidal is the author of Afraid of All the Things and He Numbered the Pores on My Face. She writes regularly for ParentLife Magazine and She Reads Truth and enjoys speaking to women around the country about the freedom and rest available in Jesus. Scarlet has a degree in biblical counseling and taught elementary school before she started writing. She and her husband live in Nashville, where she loves signing with her three daughters, eating nachos by herself, writing for her friends, and studying stand-up comedy with a passion that should be reserved for more important pursuits.
1. Leticia Miranda, “You’re not the only one who stress-shopped this week,” NBCNews, November 5, 2020, accessed October 9, 2020, https://www.nbcnews.com/business/consumer/you-re-not-only-one-who-stress-shopped-week-n1246647.
2. Placide Cappeau, composer Adolphe Adam, “Oh, Holy Night,” trans. John S. Dwight, 1847, accessed via Hymnary.org on November 9, 2020, https://hymnary.org/text/o_holy_night_the_stars_are_brightly_shin.