Sabbatical Series: How to Keep Standing

It has always been true that the world has a way of catching us off guard. Many of us like to think we have our life in control. Especially if we were fortunate enough to be born into a comfortable middle-class family, we have been taught to work hard and life will reward you. Pestilence, natural disasters, and war intervene, toppling our achievements.

In the midst of what is happening, we all need hope! Sharing words of hope and encouragement is going to be my focus as I take a sabbatical from new posts for a short while and reach back to republish some of my prior writings.

How to Keep Standing

One day you’re standing upright, holding your head up high. All around you is a clear sky with rays of sunshine warming your face and your heart. There are stressful elements in your life, to be sure. But they are manageable. You have a daily routine. And a very normal daily routine it is. Working. Caring for your family. Finding time for fun and relaxation. Setting up goals and taking meaningful steps to achieve them.

Then seemingly overnight, not only your world but the entire globe is in a state of chaos trying to contain this monstrous beast let loose from Pandora’s box: coronavirus and its ensuing COVID-19 disease growing exponentially as it races from town to town, country to country, and continent to continent. It seems as though no one is going to be spared from its apocalyptic wrath. It swoops down upon the body of a friend or co-worker, then a family member and maybe even you. COVID-19 may bring with it the following in varying degrees of intensity: fever, extreme body ache and lethargy, cough, difficulty breathing and inflammation of body organs. Its worst outcome is death—especially to the elderly and those with underlying health issues, but also to the young who were healthy before COVID-19’s onslaught.

You enter into a time in your life which is anything but normal. Or, as some have said, this is the new normal. God forbid that we will remain in this state of wearing face masks, maintaining social distancing, isolating or quarantining ourselves within the confines of our homes (if we are so fortunate as to have a home), and viewing everything within our world as suspect for harboring the virus which demands our constant attention to washing and sanitizing.

For some of you unexpected unemployment means drowning in a sea of debt as there is not enough money to pay for housing, utilities or even food as the days turn into weeks, and weeks morph into months.

Or perhaps you are a “first responder or essential worker” in health care, police and fire departments, food markets, garbage collection, municipal transportation, certain factories, government at every level, the court system, utilities, maintenance and infrastructure or other aspects of our society which are deemed essential. You are the footmen on the frontline of this coronavirus/COVID-19 global war. You are not at home worrying when you will return to work. You are going to work every day but wondering if you will be spared being captured by the enemy virus, or if you will be the one who unknowingly brings this monster into your home where it can seize members of your own family.

Gone are those societal customs of warm greetings by handshakes, an embrace, or maybe even a kiss on the cheek. All are negated except among those who live within immediate households. And those households whose number of persons living together is “one” are left completely void of the healing power of human touch. How do we keep standing in the midst of such an adversary?

Now is the time when we must look to the strength of our spiritual faith. Or if you have never accepted the power of spiritual strength and have shunned it in the past, perhaps at this moment your heart may be urging you to give spirituality a second look. Humankind has constantly and consistently looked for the meaning of life, answers to existential questions, and sustenance outside itself since the beginning of time and that is what I feel we should do.

So, how do you keep standing when all around you is trying to pull you down?

  • Embrace the “new normal” rather than letting it pull you under.
  • Get up every day with a list of what you are going to accomplish that day and check off at the end of the day what you have achieved and jot down a “to do list” for the next day.
  • Adopt, as someone has said, “an attitude of gratitude.” Instead of bemoaning what you don’t have or what you can’t do, look around you for what you do have and what you can do!
  • Remember what it is like when you are going through a long tunnel. It seems that the end will never be in sight. But keep moving in a forward direction and you will finally reach its end and find light on the other side.
  • Hold onto your North Star, your spiritual life jacket.

The North Star for Christians is the belief that Jesus Christ was the ultimate revelation of the God of the Universe to all peoples of every race and color and belief. Rather than having to appease many gods through religious rituals and sacrifices or having to achieve immortality through living a life of good deeds, Christians have discovered another way. They believe they were made in the image of their God but ultimately fell short of maintaining that godly image of goodness.

So, Christ’s followers have accepted the perfect life of Jesus as a substitution for their imperfection. They have accepted the shedding of His blood through death on a cross as the Perfect Sacrifice. They believe His death and burial show He was a physical human being, but His resurrection three days later show He was and is devine. That acceptance for Christians is the substitution for every wrong thought or act that they have ever done or will do. By their act of believing, and asking God for forgiveness of sin, Christians are recipients of and witnesses to salvation which begins in this life and extends to a worry-free and happy eternity with God in the next.

Let me end with a poem/lyric I wrote sometime back which I, as a Christian, reread from time to time when my focus shifts from my Spiritual Guide to the furious storm of life trying to pull me under. The lyric’s story is about the Bible’s New Testament disciple Peter who is able to walk on water as long as he keeps his eyes on his Holy Teacher and Risen Lord.

The Bible story is written in the fourteenth chapter of the book of Matthew, verses 22 through 33. There you find the account of Jesus’ disciples who are out in a boat when a huge storm emerges. They have been with Jesus earlier in the day but are frightened, as though seeing a ghost, when he appears on the water walking toward them. Peter gets out of the boat at his Lord’s invitation and walks toward Him. And Peter only begins to sink when his faith turns to fear. However, he cries out, “Lord, save me!” and accepts his salvation as Jesus reaches out to him and pulls him out of the water and they both enter the boat as the furious wind and waves turn to calm.


Verse 1:
Sometimes I cry out, “Why, Lord?”
When my life becomes a storm;
For when I fail to look outside myself,
My spirit’s tossed and torn.
But then I think of Peter
Walking on the troubled sea,
And Jesus’ caring hand is there
Reaching out to him and me.

He didn’t say He’d keep us from the angry waves
But He’ll meet us in the storm.
He didn’t say the sun would warm each day
But we’ll be covered by His arms.
Over the roar of thunder
He shouts His love to me.
He didn’t say He’d keep us from the angry waves,
But He’ll meet us in the storm . . .
Meet us in the storm.

Verse 2:
Disciples foll’wing Jesus
Had the favor of the crowd;
But it was only for a little while
That praise to God rang out.
Soon favor turned to fury
When Christ didn’t suit their plan,
And waves of praise became a storm
For those led by God’s command.

He didn’t say He’d keep us from the angry waves
But he’ll meet us in the storm.
He didn’t say the sun would warm each day
But we’ll be covered by His arms.
Over the roar of thunder
He shouts His love to me.
He didn’t say He’d keep us from the angry waves,
But He’ll meet us in the storm . . .
Meet us in the storm.

An Essay and Lyric of Encouragement
By Connie Carlisle Polley, 2020-2022

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