Life for many of us has gone from a calendar full of appointments, meetings, travel, and gatherings to being home, social-distancing, and going out only when absolutely necessary. No matter how old you may be, these are unprecedented times as people try to take wise precautions without giving way to fear about what the future may hold. Yet, through various conversations, I have learned that this has affected many of us differently. For example:
- People in the service industry are taking daily risks to provide for the needs of others.
- Many have either been laid off of work or fear they soon will be. Others, already out of work have had offers put on hold.
- Long days have gotten even longer for parents of preschoolers.
- Parents have now also become their children’s teachers.
- Older people, who are more vulnerable to the serious effects of the virus, now face increased loneliness.
- Weddings, funerals, graduations, vacations, and other important (and often long awaited events) have been indefinitely postponed or canceled.
Suddenly the world has gone from being crazy busy to a screeching halt. So how do we think and respond to this sudden change?
In Paul’s encouragement to the Ephesians to live according to the Gospel, he said this: “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is,” (Ephesians 5:15-16). What does it mean to walk wisely, and to use our time in a way that accords with the will of God when all we can see is what we can’t do?
Now that many things have been stripped away, even temporarily, I have found it helpful to consider how I can use this time for God’s glory. What does it look like to be faithful in the midst of a worldwide health crisis?
As a staff member at our local church, I have been privileged to call many of our members to see how they’re doing, share God’s Word, and pray with them. While I desire to encourage them, many have been an encouragement to my own heart as well. While some are understandably anxious about possible job loss or the health of loved ones, nearly all have demonstrated a peace that can only come when we are trusting an all-wise and loving God. By God’s grace, their faith is proving to be genuine (1Peter 1:6-7).
God calls His people to use every opportunity to display the gospel truth through our lives. While others fret and give way to fear, those who trust God are still able to sleep peacefully, knowing that He will never leave or forsake those who love Him and walk according to His ways.
As I have pondered making the best use of my own time, (which is what we always wish we had more of when we’re so busy) here are a few ways I believe (and have seen) God’s people can steward this time well.
Orient Your Heart Toward the Sovereign Lord of the Universe
Trust God. God’s Word teaches us that He is the sovereign ruler of all things. Believers can trust that Divine wisdom guides the events of our lives and because we belong to Him, He gives only what is for our eternal good and His glory.
Because we live under the curse that sin brought, we are still vulnerable to sickness, death, and other kinds of suffering. The apostle Peter tells us “Do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share in Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when His glory is revealed,” (1 Peter 4:12-13). As hard as this time may be, we can humbly accept the reality of our circumstances (whatever that means for us) and trust that God will give the grace needed each day. We can give our fears to the Lord and rest in knowing that He is sovereign over this pandemic and is still on His throne ruling the world according to His purposes.
“Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit,” Jeremiah 17:7-8.
Submit to the Authorities. In our state, as many others, we’ve been ordered to stay home unless we need to go out to work or get supplies. God has established the authorities over us and tells his people to obey them. And so that is what we must do.
“Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work….”Titus 3:1.
For some, this will mean not being able to see (and hug) our grandchildren for a time, not being able to keep up with our usual workout routine, and meeting with our small group virtually instead of in someone’s home. By God’s grace, we can take advantage of services such as Face Time, Zoom, Google Meet, Google Hangouts, or other online services to “see” each other, while still honoring the decisions of our leaders to stay home.
Read and Meditate on God’s Word and pray! (and then pray more!) Join with others for a Sunday morning worship service online until we’re able to gather together. (Pastor Colin Smith of theorchardefc.org just began a series called Crisis; When the Unexpected Happens.)
Along with loved ones, be sure to pray for: The gospel to spread, health care workers, protection for the vulnerable, doctors to find a way to treat the sick, our leaders, the pastors and other leaders at your church, etc.
Cultivate a thankful spirit! Ask God to show you His many provisions of grace throughout your day and then remember to thank Him! In times like this it’s easy to focus on the fear and sacrifices and miss the many ways that God is providing and blessing us.
Remember You are the Temple of the Holy Spirit and Called to Good Works
Get dressed, make the beds, clean up the kitchen, get outside for some exercise and fresh air, and eat healthy. If you’re not sick, don’t act like you are. Not only will it remind you that there’s work to be done, it will also improve your mental outlook and be good for your health.
As Elisabeth Elliot wisely said: “The Lord meets us-not by our going out of our way and neglecting the usual responsibilities laid upon us, but in the middle of our most repetitive task. There He is, expecting us to come faithfully as ever, waiting to give us something. Make me faithful, Lord. Make me humble enough to keep on doing what I know I’m supposed to be doing, and joyfully expectant of finding You close by while I work.”
Call to check on and encourage friends and family. Read a few verses of God’s Word and pray with them. If they are not believers, ask if you can share the reason for your hope and peace. Let your life be a living example of the faith you confess.
If you are working remotely; honor your employer by doing your best under the circumstances. Demonstrate that you are trustworthy even when no one is looking.
Check on elderly friends, family, neighbors to see if they need anything you can help with. As much as it’s possible for you, see that their needs are met.
If you are a parent of young children, persevere! Know that the Lord sees the many thankless ways you serve and love your babies with their endless demands, children who test your patience and have likely tried your nerves by late afternoon (or maybe 9 a.m.?). Know that your sacrificial work is not in vain.
If you are suddenly also your children’s teacher, willingly accept your assignment as from the Lord! Ask those who have done this to give you some help (virtually of course)! Lean into your children’s learning styles (as well as your own) to add variety to the day, and use this opportunity to teach your children to do their best for God’s glory.
Read a faith-building book to keep your eyes focused on the truth of God’s Word. Or read together as a family. Share what God has been teaching you.
Cook healthy meals and sit down at the table together (with the TV off and cell phones put away. Talk and listen to each other!
Refrain from overdoing social media, TV binging, eating junk, over-spending out of boredom, and anything else that will not serve your spiritual growth.
Clean the house or organize some closets or drawers. Use this unexpected time to actually get some spring-cleaning done. Oh, and of course, wash your hands often!
While this is certainly not an endless list of ideas, I hope it might help us use whatever time we have at home wisely. Before we know it, life will be back to “normal,” but I sincerely hope we will all have become a little wiser for having been through this. In fact, I pray that we will make it our daily prayer, even after “normal” life resumes, to keep asking God to show us “the good works He prepared for us beforehand,” (Ephesians 2:10).
Lord, may I walk faithfully through this day, with a quiet heart, trusting your absolute control of my life and the lives of those I love. Thank you that because I know your strength is made perfect in my weakness, I will lean on your grace day by day. Help me not to give way to fear about what might happen today or tomorrow. I worship you, my Lord and my King. Be glorified in me for your glory.
For such a time as this,