Finding the opportunities in uncertain times

Emily Ackerman, author of 'The Amazing Technicolour Pyjama Therapy: and Other Ways to Fight Back Against Life-Changing Illness', shares a helpful reflection in light of recent news about the Coronavirus.

Our shower is getting old and eccentric. When I turn it on the water quickly turns hot, then once I get in, it goes cold. On a good day, after a minute or two it heaves a sigh and turns hot again. Otherwise it stays cold.

This morning I tried a new strategy. I hopped in and got wet while it was hot, stepped back out of the cold spray to lather up with shower gel, then rinsed it off when it warmed up again. This procedure is not without risk, I admit, but when it worked I felt quite pleased with myself.

Our world is suddenly uncertain and nothing can be taken for granted. There’s the risk of catching coronavirus and then there’s the risk over your job, business, studies, sports, travel plans, events, the list goes on and on. What will become of us? We don’t know. But in the middle of this strange and worrying time, there’s a genuine opportunity. Can we be flexible enough to spot new possibilities, like me with my dodgy shower? What new things could fill the unexpected gaps in our busy schedules? Or is it time to embrace some downtime, a time of quiet reflection?

In the middle of it all, spare a thought for the chronically ill. Many of them have good reason to fear the virus, unlike us healthy fit people. For us it might mean a week or two ill at home and another week or two getting back up to full fitness. For them, it might be disastrous.

If you’re self-isolating, whether you’re well or ill, could you go through your contacts list and ping a message to everybody on it who is less than healthy? I’m sure they would be glad to hear from you. And maybe skip the social media comments that belittle the impact of coronavirus infection. We’re not all able to shrug it off.


An extract from The Amazing Technicolour Pyjama Therapy on fear:

Illness poses frightening questions and dilemmas. Am I going to die? Will I ever recover? Will my loved ones stick around to look after me? How will I pay my rent now I’m not working?

Unchecked fear adds a crippling new layer of limits, so it has to be worth some attention. But there are other areas also needing work. Good illness management calls for facing the truth and taking care of myself. So hiding my fears behind denial or self-neglect is pointless, like moving my rubbish to a different room.

Why am I afraid?

I’m regularly ambushed by anxieties and fears. I have poor balance, so even if I’m not falling, I’m taking anxious care to avoid a fall. Another fear flashpoint is dealing with social occasions. Then there’s the state of our bank balance. These are everyday stresses that can only be avoided by hiding under the duvet – and I spend enough time under there as it is.

So I’ve thought a lot about conquering these fears. Fear is a natural response. It focuses my mind on a threat, so I can take action to keep safe. But what happens if I can’t take action? If my illness prevents me from acting? I’m left with fearful feelings.

The root of fear is not in the threat itself but in my reaction. After all, if I didn’t know about this threat, I wouldn’t feel scared of it. This means that if I can tackle my reactions, I can fight my fears.

At a deeper level, fear feeds on a self-centred mindset. The focus is on my small resources and my big concerns. It’s all about me. This perspective drives a wedge between me and God, which then blocks God’s provision for my crisis. This is why the devil is so keen to tempt me into a pit of fear that shuts out the light.

A lifeline for the fearful

1 Peter 5:1–11 signposts five steps from fear to faith. Peter offers practical strategies for people facing tough times:

All of you, clothe yourselves with humility towards one another, because,

‘God opposes the proud but shows favour to the humble.’

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.

vv 5b–6

Step One is to address my self-centred mindset and move the focus outwards. Others may have a point, after all. God is bigger than anything I face and his ways are better than my ways.

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

v7

Step Two, let God take the strain. If I lapse and pick up those burdens, I can lay them down again. Like forming a habit, it takes time to break the old pattern and stick with the new.

That’s good, but I’m not finished yet.

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith . . .

vv 8–9a

Step Three is actively resisting the devil’s attempts to control me with fear and worry. Peter continues,

. . . because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

v 9b

It feels like a lonely struggle but there are others out there, working hard to stay afloat. Peter explains that better times will come:

And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.

v 10

Step Four is restoration. I’ll get stronger as I cooperate with God, so the battle is truly worthwhile.

To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.

v 11

As the passage closes, Step Five is not about us, our struggles or the devil’s schemes. The spotlight is on God in all his power and glory. May it be so in our lives.

The Amazing Technicolour Pyjama Therapy

£9.99

Encouragement, practical advice and survival strategies to help you to fight back against life-changing illness, reclaim your life, live well and serve effectively. As Emily’s lovely gentle humour is enlivened by David McNeill’s brilliant cartoons, you will find fresh ways to view your situation and be cheered to learn you are not alone.

Buy this book

About the Author

Emily Ackerman trained and worked as a doctor before illness put an end to her professional career. Her first book, A Time to Care, was published by IVP. Emily lives in Scotland with her husband. She likes people-watching, playing with fabric, playing with words and growing green things. Emily has two children and a new grandson, about whom she is happy to boast at the slightest provocation. After twenty three years of illness and disability caused by M.E., Emily is enjoying an unexpected recovery.

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