So many people are rushing frantically to figure out what’s next with our new normal. As Christ Followers, we don’t need to figure it out on our own. We can wait and listen to what God is saying through these experiences/events in our lives.
I was in a “socially distant” board meeting last night, it felt a bit strange. Our typical congeniality was hindered by an absence of handshakes or pats on the back when we greeted or left.
The meeting felt a little like sitting in a wedding reception all alone. Instead of 10 of us being seated around a square table, we each had our own 8′ round table to sit at, with a few feet in between. We had to use a microphone when speaking (sanitized between uses) and we each spoke about how the pandemic is affecting us.
Most of the answers were to be expected: more family time, more time for couples, less stressed overfull schedules, activities we missed, including not coming together as a church on weekends. To be true, we all noted that these changes, while in some ways positive, also bring a certain amount of stress.
The internet is filled with everything from humor to helpful tips of coping with immobilized, quarantined living. Most of us speak now of healthy pandemic imposed simplified routines and a slower pace that we hope to somewhat sustain after we get back to our new normal.
I suspect most of us wonder if we’ll really be able to do so. When we have the choice to go out, will we still enjoy a family cooked meal eaten around the kitchen table? When sports teams are back in action, will we really scale back on relentless childhood busy-ness in favor of more play time at home, and family connecting? The list goes on, and whether we change or not, in an inconvenient and at times frustrating way, it was nice while it lasted.
HOWEVER, rather than “coping” with the shutdown, or “making the most of it” (both of which are good ideas), I would like to suggest two additional responses: The first suggested response is “Wait, and listen.”
Seldom do our societal surroundings support the actual practice of Psalm 46:10 “Cease striving (be still) and know that I am God.” While there is nowhere to go, take advantage of it and GO NOWHERE…wait, and spend some moments listening.
Capitalize on having no outside options to the question “What do you want to do?” and take some time to experience Isaiah 40:31 “Those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength, they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not faint.”
Let’s admit it, our normal life is pretty hectic. We run, run, run with almost obsessive activity called “fun, sports, errands, eating out, work”…the list is as endless as the ideas that spend our energy and attention.
So take the imposed activity restrictions and spend some time just sitting, waiting, and listening. Focus your attention prayerfully on God, perhaps on a passage of scripture, and listen in your soul to the thoughts God might impress upon you.
The second suggestion, ask yourself “What does it mean?” Try to consider the pandemic (worldwide) from higher than the 10,000 foot level. While we can’t totally achieve it, attempt to consider this strange worldwide season from the Isaiah 55:8,9 perspective:
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.”
Ask yourself a bigger question than how you’ll occupy yourself, or what recipe you can try. In your waiting and still time, consider questions of meaning regarding the world situation: “What is the greater meaning of this pandemic? What could God’s perspective be in all this? What forces and influences are working?”
I believe God has an agenda of what He would hope to accomplish during this season. Surely it must include some version of people prayerfully humbling themselves to depend on Him for help (see 2 Chronicles 7: 13).
Also notice how interconnected life is. The “lockdown” impacts just about every area of life: much is cancelled, from work, to church, sporting events, graduations and weddings. The ripple effect is damaging economies, employment levels, stressing relationships and healthcare, not to mention there are thousands of deaths around the world. Observe the trampling of civil rights and personal freedoms for the sake of health safety.
I’m not suggesting protests or complaints…I personally don’t know the “right answers” to the pandemic and I believe most people in authority are actually doing what they believe is in the collective best interests of society. I do suggest we pray for our leaders to act on wisdom from God (see 1 Timothy 2: 1-3). Pray that everyone from politicians to entertainers will avoid the damaging partisanship and blaming that divides an already hurting people.
As you experience the pandemic, do it thoughtfully, with discernment. Let’s not let this (hopefully) once in a generation experience go by without thoughtfulness, reflection, and God-sought insight. As you wait and listen, ask “What does it mean? How should we interpret the huge seismic sociological movements? What spiritual dynamics are at play and what awareness should Christians have about this worldwide current event? Is this pandemic significant from a Biblical perspective?”
Certainly this season can leave a permanent mark on the human psyche; it can alter longstanding customs (is handshaking extinct?) and shape future geopolitical decisions and norms. Is this season spiritually significant? What agenda does the Almighty have amidst our scramble to be safe, to find a vaccine, to find hope?
In this pandemic, thoughtfully ask God for wisdom. After all, He has promised to give it to all who ask (see James 1: 5) Process it prayerfully, and with discernment. May this worldwide stressor cause us to be stronger, “deeper” in our faith and understanding of the world around us, and better equipped to handle the internal dimensions of catastrophic events in the future, be they worldwide or personal.