REACHing When Life is Hard | A Teacher’s Perspective on COVID-19

Portrait of smiling teacher making a video call to students on laptop | REACHing when Life is Hard

Article by: Laura E. Sumpter

“Wait, Mrs. Sumpter! I have something to show you!” The little girl jumped from her seat and ran to her front door. Through my zoom lens, I could see her open the door and run back inside with a giant pot. My curiosity got the best of me, and I leaned in for a closer look.  

All her little friends pressed their noses to the camera. Two dozen eyes peering intently.

“What is that?” I asked, trying to make out the giant white blob she was pushing in front of her chocolate brown eyes. Then it came into view.  

“It is my onion,” she said with a big grin.

Sure, enough she was holding a large white onion, with a small shoot of green coming out of the top. “ I have it on my porch,” she said.

I smiled as I listened to her chatter away about how much fun she had been having playing with this unusual find.

My phone buzzed, signaling a message. I glanced at the text and discovered that it was a message from this little girl’s mom.

“Oh, my word,” it read, “she has the rotten onion! I made her keep it outside because she wouldn’t let me throw it away. It has been keeping her busy!”

 I had to cover my face in laughter as I looked back at the screen.  Only a seven-year-old would find joy in dissecting an onion.

The innocence and curiosity made me pause. Like everyone, her life looks different right now. Yet, amazingly, she found joy in something that seemed like a waste of time.

I carried this image with me for days.

It forced me to reflect on my relationship with God and how often I allow circumstances to overwhelm me, instead of leaning into the joy God has placed in front of me?

How can I learn to approach God with this little girl’s sense of wonder and curiosity? 

How often do we allow circumstances to overwhelm us, instead of leaning into the joy God has placed in front of us?Click to Tweet
Close up portrait of a young african american teacher looking out window when working on laptop | REACHing when Life is Hard

Forced Out of the Classroom

I admit that I often choose to put the “icky” situations out on the porch and never look at them again. I want to walk away and create my own decisions about God, rather than seek to know Him on a deeper level.

What I see as a giant inconvenience or a waste of time, may be the very thing that God uses to bring me closer to Him. It may be what I need to discover more about His glory and the wonders He is performing.

This spring, when the COVID-19 pandemic forced me out of the classroom and onto a webcam in my playroom, I did not respond to the inconvenience well.

Life had thrown a curve, and I was not happy.

I did not approach this trial with joy and curiosity. I was downright irritated and felt that God had somehow overestimated my strength to do hard things.

This isn’t the first inconvenience I have had in my life. But it has been one of the most challenging.

Here are five important truths to remember when encountering seasons of loneliness, frustration, and anxiety.Click to Tweet

Learning to REACH when Life is Hard

During this season of pivotal change, I was reminded of five important truths when encountering seasons of loneliness, frustration, and anxiety.

  1. Relax in God’s Promises
  2. Engage with God’s Word
  3. Accept God’s Strength
  4. Consider the Future
  5. Hold God’s Hand

R – Relax in God’s Promises

In God’s first interactions with humankind, He made promises to His creation. One of the first promises we see is given right after the flood.

After a catastrophic loss, Noah received a promise from Jehovah that stated, “Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done. While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night shall cease.” (Genesis 8:21, 22, ESV)

God’s holiness assures us that His promises are ones we can depend on and rely on. He promises His presence and comfort in times of despair. 

King David reflected that, “I believe I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” (Psalm 27:13, ESV).

God’s promises can be trusted.

God’s holiness assures us that His promises are ones we can depend on and rely on.Click to Tweet

E – Engage with God’s Word

One of the most significant sources of peace during seasons of uncertainty is Scripture. God takes our plight seriously. He isn’t a distant God who looks at our situation with callousness or carelessness.

He is a God, who like that little girl, peers intently at the situation—gently working through the process with us—providing rest to our weary hearts.

He calls, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28, ESV)

When I act on His words, remembering they are promises for me, I can face difficult circumstances with hope and assurance that God has my best in mind.

A – Accept God’s Strength

Independence is a character trait I often take pride in.

But, this way of thinking is difficult when I am faced with situations that I do not know how to handle.

The burden that we bear in seasons of grief and frustration can overwhelm us. Our pride and independence often cause us to stumble.

Isaiah 43:2 says, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.”

God’s presence continually walks with us through difficulty and defeat.

Just like a mom reaching for her child, God REACHes out His hand. Peace comes in taking hold and letting His strength infuse me.

When I don’t do this, I may miss some of the greatest blessings His strength offers.

God’s presence continually walks with us through difficulty and defeat.Click to Tweet

C – Consider the Future

As I rest in the promises of God and His Word and continue to rely on His strength, I am comforted in knowing that God has the future in mind.

I must continually remind myself that His is perspective is very different from my own.

How often have you “thought” something would turn out differently than it has? How common is it for you to decide that “this” is the way it will go, and indeed it goes opposite? Being in a season of global uncertainty has brought these feelings to the surface for my family and me.

God’s ways are not ours. 

Joseph experienced this as he watched his family face him with dread over possible starvation. God reached down in the middle of what appeared to be a hopeless situation and, after fifteen years, redeemed an entire nation.

God hasn’t forgotten us in the middle of our story.

He is writing the narrative and knows the ending. Jeremiah encourages us in these words, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11, ESV)

My faith story rests in trusting that God is good and He is pursuing me as I walk into the unknown future.

My faith story rests in trusting that God is good and He is pursuing me as I walk into the unknown future.Click to Tweet
Full body portrait of happy young teacher using computer at home

H – Hold God’s Hand

When my three kids were learning how to walk, we would often say, “hold my hand.”

When we went into large crowds, even after their legs were stable, we would say, “hold my hand.” Even now, when my kids were scared or content on walks to the park, you could find our hands interlaced.

There is comfort in hand holding. Couples do this as an expression of love. Older people do this in times of sorrow. When Christ was appearing to his disciples after his resurrection, the first thing He told Thomas was to “put your finger here, and see my hands.” (John 20:27, ESV)

God wants us to “hold His hand” when life is hard.

He offers guidance and comfort in the most difficult seasons. “I am the Lord, I have called you in righteousness; I will take you by the hand and keep you…” (Isaiah 42:3, ESV)

Even when life is hard, God is not out of REACH. Here are five important truths when encountering seasons of loneliness, frustration, and anxiety.

I look at life a little differently after seeing a seven-year-old tell me how amazing her onion is during a quarantine.

Life looks like a lot of things right now; onions would not have been at the top of my list.  

But there is something that onions do that I was reminded of.

They bring the flavor to whatever dish we add them to.

Life circumstances lend flavor to our faith story. It is from these tragedies and triumphs God brings wholeness and holiness.

No matter what we endure, God is not out of REACH.

No matter what we endure, God is not out of REACH.Click to Tweet

His promises and words never fail. His good is chasing us into the future He has for us.

Are you REACHing for His hand today?

-Laura Sumpter

Laura E. Sumpter is passionate about bringing hope to women through God and His word. She is a mommy to three and has been a teacher of women and children for over 20 years. She is a latte loving, gardener, and DIYer who makes her home with her loving family in the Willamette Valley of Oregon. You can connect with her on her blog, Facebook, and Instagram.

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