Stomaching 2020

Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you. - 1 Peter 5:7

“Death doesn’t discriminate between the sinners and the saints.. It takes and it takes and it takes…”

There’s nothing like a global pandemic, consistent police brutality, climate change, and a turbulent political environment to transform a pleasant evening of belting Hamilton lyrics into an on-ramp for an anxious, catastrophic stream of thought, amirite? 

At the risk of sounding more histrionic than I normally do, I have spent most of 2020 earnestly believing that I was dying. 

To be fair, I had reasonable cause for concern at first. At the end of January, I was shiftily commuting to the VA hospital via public transportation to complete my dental residency. As residents, we were fitted for N95s and we took them, not knowing exactly when to wear them or what we were signing up for. Fortunately, we were granted the privilege of working on residency tasks remotely a few weeks into the pandemic. I soon found myself a nervous wreck in my tiny apartment, deciphering if my sniffles were allergy related  and incessantly palpating my lymph nodes to decide if one side of my face felt numb. Slightly embarrassed to admit it, but I texted half of the physician friends in my contacts. One particularly blunt pal put it best – “Girl, you’re stressed. Go get some rest and some therapy.” I did just that. 

Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? - Matthew 6:27

Months later, however, I stood in front of a mirror and palpated  again. This time it was my abdomen, which I had determined was problematically asymmetrical and ominous in appearance. At my routine physical, my primary doctor assured me that she wasn’t too concerned, but because I had experienced some transient tenderness (which, upon reflection, was likely attributed to one too many YouTube workouts because  #CovidCalories), she  ordered some imaging anyways. 

Once the appointment was on the calendar for a month later, I couldn’t stop thinking about how my life might be drastically interrupted after I received the results. I rarely felt discomfort or even remembered my ailment when I was busy working or socializing, but as soon as I was alone with my thoughts, I was again plagued with my catastrophizing habit. This thorn in my flesh flooded every stream of thought, distracted me from being fully present during playtime with my niece, and robbed me of my peace. When my appointment date finally arrived, I laid on a cold, gray hospital table chugging chalky barium as the medical team  scanned images of my GI tract. 

But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. - 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Spoiler alert: I have mild acid reflux disease. After a few days, my mind finally started to believe what the test results told me: I’m not, as far as I know, dying from a mysterious GI disease.  I’m thankful beyond words that I have thus far survived the year with most of my physical health, and a considerable amount of my mental and emotional wellness as well.I am, however, like every other living being on earth, dying. New presentations of anxiety and 2020 in general have forced me to encounter and reflect on my mortality. For years, especially after choosing to pursue a relationship with Christ, I was convinced I didn’t fear death. I believe that despite my countless flaws and shortcomings, a perfect man named Jesus paid for all of that and more on the cross so I could spend forever in a brilliant, beautiful place with Him (some speculate this place has unlimited dairy-free queso, but that’s unconfirmed). That is enough to provide peace when I think about what happens after my death. But this year has made me realize that I may not be as calm when I think about the actual process of deterioration and expiring. And that’s okay. God knows each of our hearts intimately, and that includes our fears, our doubts, our weaknesses, and the areas in which we are still growing in our trust. 

When I said, “My foot is slipping,” your unfailing love, Lord, supported me. When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy. - Psalms 94:18-19

I honestly intended to write this blog post about the gravitas and reality of death and our mortality. I think that my biggest realization from this season, however, has been that there is no fooling God when it comes to anxiety, and that is a GOOD thing. There is no loved one, no therapist, no journal that can carry our burdens the way He can. He made our hearts uniquely, so He knows them and can heal us uniquely as well. He promises to bring us peace and rest when we bring our burdens to Him (Matthew 11:28). This doesn’t mean we won’t struggle with crippling anxiety from time to time. Nor does it mean we won’t have to encounter death around us or even for ourselves until ripe old age. What it means is that we are not walking through this valley alone, and we can place our hope in what is to come, no matter when it is. My hope is that you don’t spend the remainder of this year trapped inside under a blanket overwhelmed by anxiety (although, for the love of all that is good, please stay home as you are able, and please cancel your dental appointment if you are experiencing Covid symptoms!). May this unique, stretching season inspire you to savor the present (epic musical soundtracks included), reflect on what you know to be true, and trust God with every single emotion you’re feeling this year. And if you’re scrolling through headlines and social media wondering if and when better days and restoration will arrive, take the advice of Aaron Burr, and just wait for it.

‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. -Revelation 21:4

2 thoughts on “Stomaching 2020

  1. I love that you have found the silver lining in the struggles you have had to overcome this year. I hope we can also find the goodness and God’s intent for us in the midst of this never ending saga we call 2020. Love you!

    Liked by 1 person

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