John’s blog challenges us to reflect on how God is changing us through this crisis.
The Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown have brought many challenges. We have been pushed outside our comfort zones without preparation. This has forced us to adapt, quickly. Many of us have found ways to do that, though it has often been painful. But some of us find the situation very difficult to tolerate.
We cry out for this crisis to end, because of both personal loss and the potential damage being done to our economy and way of life. It is natural to want it all to be over, to get back to where we were before, to pick up the threads of our lives again.
But what if it is not going to end yet? What if we are not going to get back to where we were? Many people are speaking of a ‘new normal’, even if no-one knows what that will be. The future will probably be rather different from our recent past.
Our Sunday messages from Revelation have reminded us that God is in control of what is going on. His ways are higher than our ways, his thoughts are higher than our thoughts. Though the future may not be what we hoped for, we know that it is in God’s hands.
What if our loving Father is using this situation to prepare us and shape us to share with him in his purposes? What if he is using this painful time to equip his children for his kingdom? The writer of Hebrews puts it like this, in chapter 12:
5 And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says,
“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,
and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
6 because the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”[a]
7 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father?
…. God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful.” That is certainly true of our current experience. Finally, however, “it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace.” With God, even the hard times bring good. But there is a condition here: the ones who benefit are “those who have been trained by it.” It is important that we “do not lose heart” in these times, but we must also “not make light” of what he is doing in us.
We have all had to change to get through this crisis, but perhaps the important thing is that God wants some of these changes to be lasting. He has been using the time to mould our lives in ways that would not have happened if we had been going along as usual. He is working on the whole of our beings, “spirit, soul and body”, to prepare us to do his will (1 Thessalonians 5:23). Let’s make the most of the opportunity! Let’s not waste the virus!
Here are three ways I have found myself challenged during these times.
In John 15, Jesus made clear that those who “remain in him” will bear much fruit. However, the present crisis pushes us beyond what we have previously experienced in depending on God. Some of us are working much harder than we used to, others have too much time on our hands. Some of us struggle to get time on our own, others are screaming for company. Whatever our situation, the challenge comes to “remain in him”. This may be easier said than done as we try to find new ways to connect with God in a different pattern of daily life.
Christian history gives us many tools to develop a living daily relationship with Jesus. These include important private disciplines: the Bible (reading, study, meditation and memorisation), prayer, thanksgiving, worship, fasting, silence and solitude. We also have the beauty and strength of fellowship, even if for now this must be on-line: “not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:25)
Can we learn fresh ways of connecting with God from our Christian traditions? Can we forge new habits in this time of difficulty that will equip us spiritually for the new opportunities and challenges that lie ahead? Let’s not waste the virus!
In this time of pressure, many of us are learning to be thankful for the small things of life. We are finding that God brings good to us in ways that we didn’t previously notice in our busy schedules and dependence on entertainment. The beauty of nature in our garden or in the streets outside on our daily walk, receiving food with thankfulness, a video call with a friend or relative: these and a multitude of other ‘small’ things are gifts from our loving Father.
Paul wrote in Philippians 4:
12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.
The times ahead will certainly bring new challenges; it may be that some of our past sources of pleasure will be less available to us. But if we have learnt to be content with God’s goodness in the difficulties, we will be emotionally better able to serve him in the future. Let us develop a fresh habit of gratitude. Let’s not waste the virus!
Our bodies are “a temple of the Holy Spirit”. However, in the rush of life we often take them for granted, or use a quick fix at the gym to help keep them in condition. The lockdown situation brings new challenges for our bodies, whether loss of normal exercise, temptations to overeat for comfort, overuse of phones, losing the routine of sleep, or the need for constant vigilance in hygiene.
As we face these challenges, can they open the door to a fresh appreciation of God’s gift of our bodies and to new attitudes and disciplines in caring for them as stewards of the Holy Spirit’s temple? We will then be physically stronger to grasp God’s purposes as we move forward. Let’s not waste the virus!
We have a period of opportunity, when we can embrace what God is doing in us and cooperate whole-heartedly with him. Let us gladly give ourselves to him, spirit, soul and body.