These are strange times. It’s been less than two weeks since I first wrote about COVID-19 and my life has certainly not become less strange since. After some potential exposure, our family decided to self-quarantine; just a few days later, the governor issued a stay-at-home order for our county. It’s an odd anti-climax to a month I thought would be particularly busy and exciting. Sometimes it feels like an extended spring vacation. Other days, well, it’s lonely and it seems life is never going to get back to normal. When will we be able to go a day without thinking about the virus? When will we be able to return to public life, go to church, plan trips, and go to large meetings? A month? Two months? Will there be a second wave this fall? Is the economy going to bounce back, or are we in for a long-haul recovery? All these questions swirl around in our minds. No matter what you think about COVID-19 or how it’s affected you, I’m sure you’d be glad to have it all over and never think about it again.
But here we are. Regular life has stalled. As frustrating this can be, I think the situation provides many opportunities for growth. Here are five areas that have helped me:
1. Acknowledge that life is not under your control
By historical standards, our lives are remarkably stable. We enjoy unprecedented prosperity, there are no major wars, and we take religious and political liberties for granted. It’s easy to assume life will always be this way. We nod our heads when someone suggests that life could change, but I don’t think it sinks in. A century ago, our nation was pulling out of a world war, soon to hit economic collapse, just in time to participate in the bloodiest war in human history. That wasn’t very long ago. Of course it’s possible we’ll go the rest of our lives without seeing a similar major calamity. It would be unusual if that were the case, though—just look at history.
No, today’s coronavirus is hardly comparable to one of the twentieth century’s calamities—that’s not my point. But it’s the most disruptive thing I can remember in my life as an American. (9/11 was more shocking, but it didn’t shut our lives down for weeks on end.) COVID-19 came suddenly, without much warning, and it still doesn’t seem real that some of us aren’t even allowed to leave our homes. If a more deadly calamity would hit us (war, for instance), it could come just as quickly, directly preceded by life as normal. While we can’t live in fear, I think it’s wise to acknowledge that all of our plans for the future could unravel overnight. If this would really happen, how would we cope? Are we secure in God and the promise of future restoration, so that such devastation wouldn’t unmoor us?
2. Strengthen family relationships
We may be stuck at home, cut off from our friends, but for most of us, we still have our families. Let’s use this time to build these relationships. I’ve been spending more time than usual with my siblings, playing games, and enjoying conversation. Some of these conversations are deep, but just the increased amount of casual interaction is meaningful. Could we look back in a couple years with fond memories of the extra time together as a family? I think so.
3. Think twice about returning to normal
I live in Lancaster County, PA. Americans are too busy in general, but especially here. There’s always something happening. I never talk to someone who says, “Man, I’m bored. Do you know where I can find something to do?” Everyone assures me that they are booked to the max. It’s possible you’ve carefully planned your schedule so that it reflects where all your priorities should be. But that’s rather unlikely. Now that everything has come grinding to a halt, you have time to think about your life. You’re probably anxious to get back to normal; no one wants to be cooped up forever. But you may also find more time than usual to concentrate on things you enjoy—or an area of your life where God is bringing change. Utilize the moment. Perhaps you could make an adjustment to your schedule—small or large—that would enrich your life and make you more effective for Christ.
4. Look for creative ways to be a blessing
Clearly, COVID-19 disproportionately affects the weak and elderly. This is a great time to volunteer to go grocery shopping for a neighbor. Maybe you can’t leave your home. Most likely, restrictions will loosen before the crisis is completely over, though. If you’re stranded at home, think about making a phone call to an elderly friend or writing a letter.
5. Expect open doors with the lost—even after the crisis is over
We have plenty of time on our hands. I’ve heard people comment that it’s too bad we can’t go around spreading the gospel as freely as we’d like. True, but people won’t instantly forget the crisis once quarantines are lifted. We don’t know how long it will take the economy to recover. We do know that Americans are more shaken and worried about the future than they have been in a while, though. It’s not as easy to glibly assume that we have life figured out.
This is part of the reason I think it’s crucial for the Christian community to respect our authorities’ health recommendations. Our neighbors aren’t going to be impressed if we end up spreading the virus—it could ruin an otherwise perfect chance to share with them. So if you’re feeling impatient to “get out there,” be patient! I believe God has much work in store for us, even if right now it feels like “hurry up and wait.”
Remember that you are not in control. Stay encouraged in the Lord, and seek to use these days as a time for intentionality, instead of grumbling about COVID-19 and just waiting for the time to pass. No, it’s not always enjoyable. But if we respond appropriately, God can work in our hearts, causing this to be a time of marked personal growth.