As we make our way through the third month of COVID-19 precautions, many of us do so with weary hearts. Even as some businesses open back up, a heavy weight still hangs over the country and the entire world. We’re still being told to keep our distance from each other as best as possible, to only go out when it is essential, to avoid large groups like birthday parties, restaurants, and yes, church. It has been a struggle to suddenly go without these cornerstones of life. But it has also been an opportunity. If we must endure these conditions, we have to assume it is because there is a higher purpose to them and reflect on what that could be. As Christians, there are many lessons we can take away from the COVID-19 crisis.
What you can control versus what you can’t
A major recurring theme throughout the gospel is the fact that we, as humans, are not in control. We cannot comprehend God’s plan for us at the best of times, and we’re certainly no better prepared to do so during a crisis. Proverbs 3:5 encourages us to "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding" precisely because our own understanding and perspective is so limited compared to God’s. This is a something every Christian knows, but it takes a massive society upheaving moment like this to bring the full weight of that truth to bear. Plan as we might, ultimately God has the final say in all matters.
As Christians, we have to learn to embrace that truth, as scary as that can be sometimes. During times of uncertainty like now, this is more true than ever. We should of course strive to take the precautions we can (keep the essentials stocked, limit our exposure, be smart about what we do and where we go) but there are limits to what we can do. Worrying about what will happen afterwards can only bring pain and anxiety. Mathews 6:34 says it directly "Therefore, don't worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” So learn to see the difference between what we can control and what we can’t, and trust in God to take care of the things we cannot.
Find joy where you can
COVID-19 has been a wrecking ball. It’s taken lives, broken families, and disrupted every facet of our lives. But we can’t allow ourselves to give into desperation. We need to face these challenges head on, and part of doing that is appreciating the things we do have rather than wallow in what we’ve lost.
In the case of this disease, and any other major crisis, you should always be looking for things to appreciate. Yes, social distancing has been hard, but for many of us it’s also been an opportunity to bond with family members in new ways. We’ve had to rely on each other to get through this and forge even stronger bonds than ever. Some of us have been helping our neighbours who can’t get out for one reason or another or have been on the receiving end of that help. This is a beautiful thing, this crisis has shown who we are as Christians. Many of us have also had the chance to catch up on projects around the house, to start new hobbies, or even just gain a new perspective on what we appreciate and enjoy in life. As many of our typical distractions and chores fall away, we’ve been able to focus in on what matters, what really makes us happy.
No matter how terrible the situation, there are always traces of God’s grace and goodness to be found. Every day is a gift, no matter what obstacles face us, so focus on the things that make you happy, that show you God’s love for us, and treasure them. Find joy wherever you can and take that attitude forward as we move out of this crisis and back towards normality.
We can worship in the face of separation and hardship
Online sermons, virtual prayer groups, text groups instead of church groups. When faced between the prospect of isolation or seeking a technological solution, many of us have learned to depend on devices and software we never would have associated with the Church in a million years before all of this started. And while online streams and the infinite 1s and 0s of the computer world will never be a substitute for actual, real, face-to-face community, it has helped, or at least somewhat helped, to fill the void of prolonged isolation and social distancing. More than that though, as Christians, we should find these technological solutions bracing because they show that no matter what the situation is, what obstacles we face, we can still find ways to worship God.
That’s the real thing to take away from this. For as silly as it may seem to log into a Zoom prayer group, or boot up a stream of a pastor preaching from his hastily assembled living room studio, the spirit, the desire to worship is there. Even in the midst of sickness and suffering, hardship and pain, we still yearn to worship God and commune with fellow Christians. That is a truly beautiful thing that shouldn’t go unrecognized.
When this is over and we can once again fill the pews and embrace each other in our arms, we shouldn’t forget this spirit and take what we have for granted. We should come out of this period of uncertainty charged and energized, and ready to worship with even fuller hearts than before.
They say you don’t know what you have till it’s gone. Now we know. And when we get it back we should treasure it like it deserves.