Before our little Jubilant Academy was set to commence on Thursday morning, I noticed that our Joy Boy’s demeanor looked melancholier and more deflated than cheerful and light. Truth be told, Caleb hadn’t shown much of his typical genial spirit for the past few days.
Thus, before we started our school day, I asked, “Caleb, how are you feeling this morning?”
Caleb didn’t answer.
I prompted, “Caleb, it’s okay to tell us how you feel. Give me one word that would tell me how you are feeling right now.”
A singular word exploded from Caleb’s heart, “FRUSTRATED!”
“Thank you, Caleb,” I acknowledged. “Do you have another word that tells me how you are feeling?”
“ANGRY!” Caleb exclaimed.
“Okay, Caleb,” I continued, “What else? What are the other feelings that are inside your heart this morning?”
Caleb gushed, “CONFUSED. ANNOYED. BORED. VERY VERY SAD.”
Where had our Joy Boy gone?
For our third-born son to articulate these strong emotions was a big deal. Caleb rarely, if ever, feels sad or discouraged. Caleb has had a joyful, friendly disposition from birth. Seriously. Caleb is one of those kids who is blessed with a positive, cheer-seeking outlook in life that is deeply rooted in his trust in God. Caleb believes that God is in control and that God can help him.
Caleb believes that God can help anybody at anytime.
Yet, Caleb wondered on this Thursday, why the COVID-19 virus is denying him the opportunity to live the life that he enjoys in Oregon.
Caleb is frustrated that he cannot see his grandparents and hug them. We are only miles away from Caleb’s grandparents – not a continent away had we been in South Africa. It doesn’t make sense that we cannot embrace and relish their company while still here.
Caleb is angry that the virus is not going away. In Caleb’s experience, viruses have no more than a two-week lifespan. Viruses come and viruses go. COVID-19 seems to be here forever!
Caleb is confused about all the restrictions that this COVID-19 life has created.
Caleb is annoyed that he cannot attend his church and see his friends, visit the library, eat out at his favorite restaurants, and walk in lots of different parks.
Caleb is bored. I never ever thought I would hear Caleb utter this word. Caleb amuses himself in a variety of settings. Yet, he said that he was bored because we haven’t been able to go anywhere in a long time.
Caleb is very, very sad that he cannot go home to South Africa. We have no departure date. Our return flight was cancelled and there are no flights available at this point. Caleb wonders if we are going to have to stay in Oregon – forever????
It’s no wonder that Caleb was frustrated, angry, confused, annoyed, bored, and very, very sad on Thursday.
I am grateful that we were able to plumb Caleb’s feelings and provide a way for him to express his emotions. We didn’t want Caleb to keep these feelings all bottled up inside of his mind and heart.
Although your situation may be different than our family’s current challenges, I imagine you can relate to some of Caleb’s feelings. Like Caleb, none of us have experienced anything like this situation in our lifetime.
So, what do we do with these feelings?
Where do we turn for help and encouragement?
For Caleb, we not only acknowledged his feelings, but honored them. We asked him to name his feelings, explain his feelings, and then give his feelings to Jesus. As Caleb prayed and as we prayed for Caleb, our son’s heart was steadied and strengthened.
This is a soul-affirming practice that we find in Scripture. For example, in Psalm 46, the sons of Korah express their quiet assurance in their God during an earth-shaking-and-quaking, ocean-tsunami-surging catastrophic season in their lives. Honestly? What could be worse?
God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.
Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
he lifts his voice, the earth melts.
The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
Come and see what the Lord has done,
the desolations he has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease
to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”
The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
New International Version, Psalm 46
Crucibles of extreme adversity come in many forms. Economic Woes. Weather Catastrophes. Severe Droughts. Devastating Earthquakes. Terrifying Wildfires. Abhorrent Wars. Hideous Diseases. Broken relationships. Whatever the trouble, God’s help and God’s strength are promised.
He is Elohim, the living, personal God. He is our God.
He is Creator of heaven and earth. He is our Creator.
He is LORD Almighty; the One who controls history. His work is proclaimed in the past, in the present and in the future to come. He is our LORD Almighty.
He is the God of Jacob. We should take great encouragement that He is! Motivated by fear to manipulate and control his destiny, Jacob was a deceiver and a schemer. And God still chose him, Jacob the liar and the failure, to be the father of Israel! God’s grace, purposes and will were not dependent upon Jacob’s strength or abilities. Rather the God of Jacob showed Himself to be Jacob’s grace-giver, protector and redeemer. He is our grace-giver, protector and redeemer. He is the God of you and me.
Yes, our God is our succor. He provides tangible assistance and loving support in devastating times of hardship and distress – when we feel angry, afraid, and confused about our todays and our tomorrows – like now.
For our Caleb, he felt lost, fearful and alone with the myriad of unfamiliar, strong, uneasy feelings inside of him. This wasn’t Caleb; not our Joy Boy. He needed to name his emotions and give them to his God. And Caleb did.
We need to do the same when we feel turned upside-down and inside-out – whenever it happens. Because, it will. The longer these lock-downs go, the more indefinite our shelter-in-place scenarios become, we will need to seek our God for his help, his strength, and his hope.
May we declare:
Elohim, Creator of heaven and earth, is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.
The LORD Almighty is with us.
The God of Jacob is our fortress.
We can be still and know that He is God yesterday, today, and tomorrow, and forever.
So, what was Caleb’s feeling word at the end of Thursday? Did confiding in his God make a difference during his day?
As we tucked Caleb into bed, I asked, “Caleb, what is your word now?”
“Joy,” he smiled.
John and I smiled, too.
Our Joy Boy was back.