In his letter to the Philippian church, the Apostle Paul shared how God was using the difficult circumstances of his life to bring about tremendous good:
But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel; So that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places; And many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. (Philippians 1:12-14)
Paul’s perspective is remarkable. Despite what he endured, he was able to look past it to see what God was doing through it. His own suffering mattered less than the good things God was accomplishing as a result.
That’s not an easy perspective to have, and certainly not one I’ve mastered. But as we face an uncertain future, I think this mindset will help us focus on God and what He’s doing in the midst of circumstances that are a challenge to all of us.
The truth is, God works through trying times to bring about good that would never be accomplished during “business as usual.” He does that on an individual basis, and I believe He can do it on a state, national, or even global basis as well.
With that perspective in mind, let’s consider a few things that are happening and their potential for good.
We’re Facing Our Vulnerability
My brother brought up this point recently, and I thought it was a good one.
In America, we’re largely accustomed to feeling invulnerable to widespread disaster. Yes, we have localized disasters such as a hurricane in Florida, wildfires in California, or an outbreak of tornadoes in the Midwest.
But with the coronavirus, we’re facing a potential disaster reaching from coast to coast. Basic staples are in short supply as store shelves have been emptied. The economy is suffering and we don’t know how long it will all last or what the implications will be for various industries.
All of this is forcing us to face the realization that America, despite our wealth, power, and prestige in the world, isn’t completely immune from these kinds of situations. Who would have thought a few weeks ago that toilet paper, bread, or other basic supplies would be so scarce?
What will we do with this feeling of vulnerability? Will it drive us to new levels of trust in God, or will it push us to defeat and despair? What if the situation stretches out for weeks or months and conditions worsen?
To be clear, I’m not hoping for that, but I do have to admit I would probably learn lessons of trust under those circumstances I might not learn any other way.
We’re Spending Time with Our Families
To be honest, the “shelter in place” order currently in effect here in Illinois isn’t affecting me and my family as much as many other folks. I already worked from home as a freelance graphic designer before all of this came up, and my wife already homeschooled our children. We’ve been practicing for this moment for years!
Our case aside, many families are together under the same roof to an extent they’ve perhaps never been before. What will that mean? I don’t know. Will these families—suddenly thrown together under stressful circumstances—discover that spending time together is actually good? Will relationships be strengthened and deepened? I hope and pray so.
We Have the Opportunity to Serve
A crisis can bring people together or it can drive them apart. So far, we’ve seen some of both. There have been reports of people fighting over supplies in stores, but there have also been reports of people serving others.
As the body of Christ, we’re called to serve, and this is an opportunity to (carefully!) do just that. If we let it, this can be our moment to bless others in real, tangible ways.
God’s Timetable Isn’t Ours
We don’t know how long this situation is going to last. Will it be over in a few weeks, or will it drag on for months? That has yet to be seen.
As I was praying and reflecting on all of this recently, it struck me that, as much as I’d like to see a quick return to business as usual, that may not be God’s plan. He may be doing a work that needs time to bring to fruition. A rapid return to life as we knew it before the virus may not allow that work to be completed.
Of course, that doesn’t mean we need to hope for the crisis to stretch on. The timing is in God’s hands. But if we don’t see a quick resolution to these new circumstances, we can at least recognize that we serve an all-powerful God who has a bigger plan than any of us can see. He may be doing exactly what’s necessary to bring about some kind of revival or transformation in our society.
Like Paul, let’s keep our eyes open to what God is doing. And whether the time is short or long, let’s pray for God’s will to be done.
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