“Wherever you are, be all there! Live to the hilt every situation you believe to be the will of God.” ~Jim Elliot

When You Just Can’t Take It Any Longer

Over the weekend, I sat between two of my grandchildren and read them a story for the first time since we began sheltering at home. We celebrated the relaxation of strict  quarantine here in rural Maine with our little group of eight. As everyone feasted on pizza and whoopie pies, I prayed that I would never forget the joy of this reunion.

A lot of ink has been spilled over the purposes of God in this season of world-wide pandemic. Deep roots in Scripture affirm God’s sovereignty and goodness, even in this, but what of God’s enemy, Satan? Certainly, the ravages of COVID-19 have been a source of great delight and entertainment to our ancient foe.

Like many evangelicals, I look to C.S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters for perspective on the motives and machinations of evil. Lewis’s fictional correspondence between a senior devil and his nephew apprentice was set against a backdrop of World War II-era London, but Screwtape’s strategies are clearly unchanged. If anything, the ensuing decades have sharpened all the tools in his kit, and, no doubt, much of the hysterical hoarding and political mudslinging that has characterized the ascent of the corona curve is evidence of his work in the human heart:

“The game is to have them all running about with fire extinguishers whenever there is a flood, and all crowding to that side of the boat which is already nearly gunwale under.” (118)

With news reports that we’re reaching the other side of the curve and with governors meeting to discuss possible strategies for reviving the paused economy, it’s tempting to start moving blindly forward into whatever’s on the other side of this crisis. In the background, I hear Screwtape himself applauding us as we grope toward normal—or even a new normal—for this is fair game for the tempter’s snare. Listen in to this bit of advice from the expert to the intern:

“Exaggerate the weariness by making him think it will soon be over; for men usually feel that a strain could have been endured no longer at the very moment when it is ending, or when they think it is ending. …Whatever he says, let his inner resolution be not to bear whatever comes to him, but to bear it “for a reasonable period”—and let the reasonable period be shorter than the trial is likely to last. It need not be much shorter; …the fun is to make the man yield just when (had he but know it) relief was almost in sight.” (142) 

We’re all feeling that impatience by now. Never have we been so restricted in our movement, so limited in our contact, so isolated and completely removed from our usual routine—and so ready to cut loose! The notion that we just can’t take it any longer, revealed for what it is—an enemy’s strategy—is a cause for alarm. Let’s not allow the goodness of healing and health and increased freedom to become a launch pad for evil.

The insights I gain from Screwtape’s diabolical voice remind me that God the Spirit speaks to me in a real and redemptive voice through the Word. I’m listening carefully in these days when all the progress and the resolve for good that has come through the COVID-19 crisis is at stake, and I’m hearing strong words of promise for rescue, resilience, and resistance as we continue to trust God :

Rescue

“My times are in your hand;
rescue me from the hand of my enemies and from my persecutors!” (Psalm 31:15).

Our timeline and ultimately our rescue from this enemy virus are truly in the hands of God, so stay in the moment. Thinking “it will soon be over” can be a hindrance to enduring with fortitude and gratitude whatever today brings.

Pioneer missionary Jim Elliot knew what it was to wait. He and his fiancée Elisabeth were serving in mission stations separated by the Andes Mountains in the early days of their courtship, and their longing for one another was poignant and intense. Even so, his words of encouragement to Elisabeth in the 1950’s reveal a strong resolve that I want to borrow in 2020:  “Wherever you are, be all there! Live to the hilt every situation you believe to be the will of God.”  Since sheltering at home has been the will of God for the majority of U.S. citizens, I want to endure the strain with that kind of gritty determination.

Resilience

But the Lord God helps me;
therefore I have not been disgraced;
therefore I have set my face like a flint,
and I know that I shall not be put to shame” (Isaiah 50:7).

As tempting as it may be to check daily progress and obsessively watch news updates to track statistics, our time is better spent in continuing with the positive habits we developed during this season of sheltering at home. How can you make time in your schedule to read daily Truth even when soccer practice and piano lessons resume for the kids? If you’ve managed to survive somehow with only weekly or even bi-weekly grocery shopping trips, why not continue the kind of meal planning and list making that allows for simple living and less consumerism?  The time your family has spent together over games, puzzles, and family entertainment; the intentional ways we have used social media and internet technology to connect; the culture of “checking in” with those who live alone or are needy in some way—these are all habits that deserve to live beyond the crisis.

Resistance

 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.  In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood” (Hebrews 12:3,4).

Resolve to finish well. Foiling Satan’s attack on our human tendency to “yield just when … relief was almost in sight,” let us rather lean in to the struggle against impatience or petulance. Of course, it’s possible that you’re eager for the quarantine and the crisis to be over because you know you haven’t handled it well, and are eager to put it behind you.  Even in this, there is plenty of room for grace and a commitment to change. You can always start over, taking God’s new mercy for a new beginning. What story would you like to be able to tell going forward? Start living it today so that it can be your very own COVID-19 testimony to God’s faithfulness in your life.

We’re all weary, and we’re all ready to be done with isolation and hand sanitizer. It’s high time for a big dinner with family and friends around my dining room table, a practice session with the worship team, and a round of Sunday morning muffins with my rascally 4’s and 5’s class! When the time comes to gather once again, let’s bring with us the sturdy resilience of those who have weathered a hardship and come out on the other side rescued, resilient, and still resisting!

Let us not grow weary in doing good,

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57 thoughts on “When You Just Can’t Take It Any Longer”

  1. This is so outstanding, so spot on, Michele. The enemy prowls around, looking for whom he can devour. He’s having a field day, for sure.

    Thank you for this upfront recalibration, friend.

    Come quickly, Lord Jesus …

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The enemy is always plotting and scheming. The Screwtape Letters is one of my favorite books of all time. Thank you so much for featuring it here and thank you for linking up with me @worthbeyondrubies

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    1. I wish everyone could meet Screwtape. I think folks are intimidated by Lewis’s reputation for heavy theology, but this book is so accessible and even entertaining!

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  3. Michele, Lewis is one of my all-time favorites. You’ve made me want to reread Screwtape. You’ve applied it perfectly to our situation. May we walk worthy and finish well.

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    1. Those words jumped off the page at me because my tendency is to struggle with the long haul faithfulness even under “normal” circumstances. So much of the following life is about simply showing up when you don’t feel like it.

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  4. Thank you for this wisdom from C.S. Lewis. And from Michele: “Let’s not allow the goodness of healing and health and increased freedom to become a launch pad for evil.” May we be patient as we wait. My heart smiles to hear you got to read a story to two of your grandchildren.

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  5. I’ve always loved the wisdom of C. S. Lewis, Michele, and what you’ve shared here fits the reaction of so many who just want this all to be over. We are waiting this out as patiently as we can, knowing God will care for us and our loved ones until we can all be together again. May we run the race and not grow weary!
    Blessings!

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  6. C.S. Lewis books are so full of wisdom. I’d like to read this one again.
    If only we would realize the ways that old “Slewfoot” messes with our minds.

    Stay true and strong!

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  7. I read this for the first time a few years ago, and it’s one I should reread at intervals. That’s so true that we tend to give up too soon. “Let’s not allow the goodness of healing and health and increased freedom to become a launch pad for evil.” Amen.

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  8. I am going to go search for my copy of “The Screwtape Letters”. I read it years ago and you have convinced me to go back and give it another look. You are so right – who would have imagined Lewis’s words would be so prescient for today? We do need to finish well.

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    1. There is so much that was written about WWII and other times of crisis in our history that I’m seeing with new eyes these days.
      Everytime I read Screwtape I see new things.

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  9. So grateful for your reminder to finish well and stay the course. God is always working, and may I always have time to participate in the good He is doing all around me!

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  10. Honestly – this post just is the best thing I have read in a long time for my worrying heart in these times. Thank you for this. It really moved me this morning!

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  11. An excellent post and I love the opening quote. Being present is essential, no matter what the circumstance. Thank you for linking up.

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  12. You’re right, Screwtape Letters is a timely book! Lewis hit the nail on the head with his portrayal of Screwtape and Wormwood. And I love that quote by Jim Elliot! One of the reasons we named our son Elliot was because Elisabeth was like a spiritual grandmother to me through her books. I grew so much in my early years because of her wisdom! And his nursery is Narnia, so there’s a nod to another favorite, C.S.Lewis.

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  13. Oh I bet it was so wonderful to see them and read to them and just be able to spend time together as a family group again. I can’t wait for that day here!

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  14. This is spot-on, Michele. You’ve reminded me of other seasons when I literally told God, “I cannot do this another day,” only to continue on for many more months. One day at a time has become my mantra, and my prayer is that this will continue long after Covid-19 becomes a page in the history books.

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    1. Oh, me, too! That caregiver role nearly undid me, and I really did my slow slog to the end without much to report on that I’m proud of. We’re bringing that resilience, though, forward into our day by day living in a pandemic. Looking over my shoulder, I see that God has been teaching me, and I’m sure you have the same testimony.

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  15. Our book club read the Screwtape letters, however must admit I only made it half way through with the intention of finishing it another time. It is fitting for our time. Thank you for your wise words and reminding me of the never out-dated wisdom of C S Lewis!

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    1. I’ve pondered doing something by Lewis for a book club. People are so intimidated by him, but this particular selection is so accessible, it might be a good onramp to Lewis!

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  16. I’ve not heard of the Screwtape letters, sounds an interesting read and I like the ref to when there is a flood, send people with fire extinguishers, sounds like what a lot of people are trying to do right now in this current situation. How lovely you’re isolating with your family. I am on my own with family in various parts of the world and UK also on their own. Thank you for linking with #pocolo and hope to see you back later this week

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  17. I love that you got to see your grandchildren again. That must have been such a special time! And I appreciate your post. I’m definitely reaching the point of wondering how long I can keep going with this as there’s no prospect here of being able to see family at least until June or possibly even later. I keep reminding myself that I’m actually fine when I focus on the present instead of worrying about the future so I just need to take one day at a time. I recently started listening to the audio book of the Screwtape Letters and it is very appropriate for this time.

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  18. Michele,
    Oh that we could print this post on the cover of national newspapers!! In order for our character to grow and to be conformed to the likeness of Christ we NEED to be stretched beyond the point of when WE can stand it. How else do we learn to rely on the grace of God? Joining with you in living to the hilt the day that is before me. I’ve shut the news off – opting instead to dive more into God’s word which combats the schemes of the enemy.
    Blessings,
    Bev xx

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    1. Good plan to be judicious in your news intake. And thank you for your thoughts here about conformity to Christ. A slow process for sure, and I think this present season is intended for that very reason.

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  19. I am so pleased that you were able to be with your grandchildren again. My parents are really struggling not being able to be with my kids so I hope we too will be able to reunite soon #DreamTeamLinky

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  20. This was a good day to read your post Michele because I have been feeling very impatient the last couple of days. It’s not that I am tempted to break the “rules” but the whole isolation part is definitely getting to me at times. You have reminded me to stay patient, that slow and steady will win the race! Thank you for that reminder! #globalblogging

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    1. I have found this to be true in so many other situations where I”ve been required to wait. We are just NOT good at it. Hopefully, we are learning through this hard season.

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  21. What a treat to be able to spend time with the family once more. It’s something we are missing over here. I think whilst we all look forward to getting back to normal, I have been enjoying and want to keep hold of that bit of slower paced living… simpler, less consuming, and much more present. Thank you for joining us for the #DreamTeamLinky

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  22. We have some relaxed rules now in the UK but still haven’t been able to meet up with family. It is so important to remember the greater good that will come from our resilience. Thanks for linking up with #globalblogging

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  23. Thank you for sharing at #OverTheMoon. Pinned and shared. Have a lovely week. I hope to see you at next week’s party too! Please stay safe and healthy. Come party with us at Over The Moon! Catapult your content Over The Moon! @marilyn_lesniak @EclecticRedBarn
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    Liked by 1 person

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