If you’re anything like us, you love hearing stories of how God is at work in the lives of others. We love celebrating and sharing the joy of Christ. That’s why we created a series all about stories of faith! Each month we’ll share a story from a member of the Lifeway team in hopes that it will bring you hope and encouragement.
I had gone more than a year without getting COVID-19. I felt like my strong immune system had kept it at bay. I felt invincible. I was not. I was told by a friend that she had likely exposed me to COVID this past March. Even so, I still felt like I would not get it. When my sniffles started a few days after I was exposed I said to myself, “The trees are blooming; they always bother me this time of year. It’s just allergies.” But I got a COVID test to be safe, and the next day the result read “Positive for COVID-19.” I read it three times because—surely not me! It was as if knowing made me feel worse. And so it began. I told my family and close friends, and all were shocked and immediately afraid, as I was. COVID is a journey that is so different for each person who has it. It’s not like a cold or the flu. So the fear of the unknown kicks in quickly. As I write this, I am thankfully on the other side of having COVID and am doing well.
Because COVID symptoms are so unique to the person, when you first test positive, a low level of fear sets in. It’s the fear of the unknown. Will I be able to breathe? Will I have to go on a ventilator? While I was sick I would hear of others who were much sicker than me or who had just passed. You feel like you are part of a scary club you never wanted to be in, and if you are single, you are alone. I spent most of my fourteen days of illness alone with my sweet dog Ruby by my side. But what I quickly learned after the shock of my positive test was that I was far from alone. Once I shared this news with my family, my church, and my close friends, the parade of prayers, food, medicine, dog walkers, and other tangible love began.
God extended His care to me through people, and it carried me those two weeks. As my symptoms worsened, the care increased. The worst times were in the wee hours of the morning when I would have a bad coughing fit and wonder if I would ever not have this weird itching in my lungs or this raging fever. But then daylight would come, and I would sit in my soft place and hear from my people and the fear and despair would lift. My friends who had already had COVID gave great advice and items I didn’t know I needed, like a Pulse Oximeter. I felt held; I felt tended.
It was a hard two weeks, but it also gave me the gift of feeling so loved, seen, and cared for. Here is what I learned from letting God and others carry me through those two weeks:
- It’s OK to be weak and ask for help. And be specific!
For those of us who don’t like to ask for help but to be the helper, being that sick can be hard. Asking for help requires us to drop our guards or pretenses and just be vulnerable. On one particularly hard day, I had a meltdown and was just sobbing when a sweet friend called me. I said, “I’m so sorry; you called at the wrong time,” and she said, “No, I called at exactly the right time.” She was able to provide kindness and comfort because I had shown transparency and vulnerability to cry on the phone with her. I could have just not answered that call, but I needed to hear her voice and the prayer she prayed for me more than I needed to be “strong”—like I had it all together while being so sick and just plain needy.
- People love an opportunity to serve and help.
If you don’t ask or take an offer for help, you deprive the giver of the chance to bless and receive the blessing of giving. I had to stop saying “It’s too far to drive” and “You don’t have to go to the grocery store for me” and let people help me in my time of need (and help specifically). I had no idea how precious my church’s food train was. Sweet people I had never met from my church brought hot meals to my doorstep. Their smiles and waves and delicious offerings were overwhelmingly wonderful. I had to finally tell my sweet church food train leader that I was about to go back to work and no longer needed the nightly meal drop-off.
- Some friends love you, but COVID-care did not come from them for whatever reason, and you have to let them off the hook for that.
There were a few key people in my life that I did not hear from. I found myself thinking, “Well, so-and-so hasn’t even texted me to see if I’m OK.” But I truly believe God specifically assigned those He wanted to help me. People I didn’t expect to help were some of the ones who blessed me the most and deepened our relationship. People have busy lives and so much going on. It was a good reminder for me to be more sensitive to the needs of others and look for opportunities to help a friend in a time of need. How many opportunities have I missed to help a friend because I was wrapped up in my own life?
- Look for God to provide in unexpected ways.
He is always there. Psalm 5:12 says He surrounds us with His love. God cares about the little things. The sweet things. He gave me lots of sunshine those two weeks to lounge on my front porch to get much-needed vitamin D. There would be a phone call or a video prayer that would come through on my Marco Polo app at just the right time.
- Always drink lots of water!
Water is great for your skin. My skin actually looks a lot better because I drank SO MUCH WATER when I had COVID. (Just thought I’d throw a fun one in there!)
- You don’t have to be “with” people to be with them.
You can feel “with” people even when they are not close by, and sometimes even a friend waving from a car is enough to feel loved and connected. Video chats, voicemail prayers, phone calls, and other prayers and virtual visits were such a blessing and helped this extrovert not have more times of ugly crying. We learned this early during our lockdown in 2020, and it is so true. A smiling face and hello from a distance or a wave through a doorway can lift your heart and give you hope.
- It’s OK just to “be.”
I have heard that the only common symptom that everyone has with COVID is fatigue. With COVID, fatigue becomes your new boss. I didn’t want to watch much TV or read or scroll through social media. I just lay there so much of the time. I would sleep or look out of my front window and watch my cherry trees bloom. I told a friend who has COVID that it teaches you the art of lying there or just being. And I need more of that. Just being in God’s presence. When I first found out I was positive, I thought I was going to “get so much done” while trapped in the house. How naive I was. I got rest done. I got healing done. I got quiet with God, being held by Him and all of the people He sent help and encouragement ‘done!’
- By being in need, I learned what others might need.
We get to comfort others in the same way we have been comforted. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 says “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort. He comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any kind of affliction, through the comfort we receive from God.” I believe having COVID will make me a better comforter to those who are sick. One of the women who helped and encouraged me the most is at home alone fighting with COVID as I write this. I have been able to give back to her in her time of need, and I’m so so thankful. I’m sorry she is struggling, but I can journey with her from afar as she did with me.
Encouragement and comfort comes in many forms, but all come from God. In my recent experience, it comes so much from one another as God designed it. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 explains this beautifully where it says, “Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their efforts. For if either falls, his companion can lift him up; but pity the one who falls without another to lift him up. Also, if two lie down together, they can keep warm; but how can one person alone keep warm? And if someone overpowers one person, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not easily broken.”
- Finally, I learned to trust God more.
I said at the beginning of this article that I had felt invincible and thought I would never get it. I felt like God was protecting me from COVID. So when I got it, I had to wrestle a bit with my faith. Was God not still protecting me? And I found that He absolutely was. I was still in the palm of His hand and under the shadow of His wings. He held me and healed me and taught me all I have written here and more. It deepened my faith and reminded me that He is everything and I have nothing without Him.
So if you are feeling lonely and unseen, if you are hurting and afraid, God is there to comfort and provide, and, so often, He does that through His people. It is okay to ask for help and let others serve you and be God’s hands and feet and smile to you.
Paige Clayton is the Author Relations Specialist for Lifeway Women and also leads their destination events. She led the women’s events team for LIfeway for 14 years and recently shifted roles so she can spend less time traveling, and more time pursuing licensure as a professional counselor. She is currently a master’s level professional counselor at Lantern Lane Farm in Mt. Juliet, TN. In her spare time, she is a fun aunt to four young adult nieces. Paige is mom to her Instagram-posing dog Ruby and loves singing, being outdoors, and spending time with her friends and family.