18 Months of COVID
In March 2020, the world in which we know it was brought to its knees. A virus known as SARS-COV-2 or what most people call COVID began to cancel everything around us. Children were sent home from school. Stores and restaurants were locked down. Basketball tournaments were canceled. The world came to a stand still.
In the beginning, most people were truly hopeful. This will last a couple weeks and then back to normal. Pastors were reluctant to make any permanent changes at all. "Everything will be fine by Easter" we told our congregations. Yet, here we are 18 months later and the world still is crippled by the coronavirus. I mean, I am currently writing this from a house locked down in quarantine at the moment.
One thing I have had time to think about is what I've learned over the last 18 months. I wanted to share 18 things that the Lord has taught me or shown me about myself, about others, and more importantly about Himself.
1) The Lord is doing something. One thing the Lord is not doing right now is nothing. In fact, the Lord is probably doing a million things right now through a virus. And the truth is the Lord is going to use these days to make us more like Jesus.
2) The Lord has purposed this trial. Whether the Lord has permitted this virus or planned this virus, I am not here to get into philosophical explanations. All I know is that the Lord would rather his people walk through these days than not walk through these days. They are purposeful. They are not by accident.
3) The Lord has numbered my days. This could sound morbid to you but it's good news to me. Psalm 139:16, "In your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them." No matter how deadly a pandemic could be, if the Lord has planned 99 years for me here then I will still be here.
4) The Lord is necessary. This has been so freeing over the last few months. The Lord is the only necessary being in the universe. Not the president. Not the doctors. Not even me as a pastor. I am unnecessary and this is freeing.
5) The Church doesn't need me. Since the Lord is the only necessary being. Since the church is built by God and his Word. Since "our hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness." We need Him. We are desperate for the Lord. We are not desperate for Lance. The church can find another pastor. We need Jesus.
6) Pastoring is a gift. While I am not necessary, pastoring is a grace of God. It's a gift not only to be saved by Jesus but to serve Jesus in his church. I think I have learned that through the pandemic and in my summer sabbatical. Pastoring is a privilege that could never be earned but is given by God's grace.
7) I love the Church. The church has never been sweeter to me. If the church is not sweeter to you through the pandemic, I am not sure you have ever loved it to begin with. Charles Spurgeon called the church "the dearest place on earth." And I believe this more and more.
8) I need the Church. The church is the chosen embassy of heaven on earth where the Lord has chosen to display his glory and pour out his grace on his people. Every Sunday is a gift. Every Sunday we are richly blessed through singing, hearing God's Word, taking of the Supper, and being with God's people. If we have neglected it before, may we never neglect it again.
9) Livestream is NOT God's best. I have been happy that the church has been able to be encouraged on Sundays when we were locked down. And for the most vulnerable, I am glad they have been connected even when they could not be present. But don't miss it, watching a service on a computer screen is not the same thing as gathering with God and his people together. Don't let it be a cheap substitute for true community.
10) The Lord is inviting you to abide. One thing the Lord is always doing is inviting his people to go deeper. He is inviting you to abide in Him. The Lord never brings about anything to create distance between you and him. So the pandemic is an invitation to deeper intimacy with Him.
11) Be Present. The future seems more fragile than ever before. Yet, the present seems more certain. The Lord has given us this moment and people here in this moment. So be present with your kids. Be present in the next conversation. Be engaged with your wife. Listen and love, again and again.
12) Next Step Obedience. Another thing the fragility of the future has taught me is that the Lord wants me to be faithful right now. God is not keeping me accountable for tomorrow or next week. I am not going to be judged on what I did in the months and years that I was not on earth. I will only be accountable for doing God's will in my lifetime. So practice next step obedience.
13) Social Distancing is Bad. Let me explain. While social distancing is necessary during a pandemic, it's not God's best for his people. We were created for community. We need to strive to cultivate it whether that's being present in a worship gathering, sitting 10 feet apart in a parking lot or zooming to see someone's face. We need one another. There will not be social distancing in heaven. Praise the Lord!
14) Unity is precious. I think the pandemic has been used by the enemy to reveal the divisions that were hiding underneath. Don't miss this! A presidential election or a pandemic didn't create disunity, it just revealed what's going on in our hearts. The fear and anxiety among us has revealed the disunity within us. As God's people we need to be "eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Eph. 4:3) for this is a precious gift of the gospel.
15) God is not after my comfort. We can sadly doubt God during a pandemic with all the uncomfort of masks, distancing, and vaccines. However, it's a great reminder that God is after something greater than our personal comfort. He is after His glory.
16) I am not in control. I think it's a gift for all of us to realize that we are not in control. The reason we feel so out of control during the pandemic is because we thought we were in control. That's why I grumble and complain so much. Grumbling and complaining in the little inconveniences of life is failing to trust in the good providences of God. Until we rest in the truth that God is in control, we are postponing peace and rest that our hearts are longing for.
17) It could be way worse. The pandemic is not the worst thing that could happen to you. One of my fellow pastors has walked through a tragedy of losing a baby girl. I have been watching a documentary about 9/11 the last few nights. That was an instant tragedy for NYC and the United States. All of these are heartbreaking tragedies. But going to hell is the greatest tragedy of all. Praise the Lord for a great Savior from the worst tragedy.
18) Heaven is Far Better. Hopefully one of the greatest gifts of this season is prying our hands off the fleeting things of this world and clinging to the eternal Christ. May we all be able to say more and more with the apostle Paul, "My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better." Eternity with our King where all the things we longed for in this life - peace, rest, hope, comfort and joy - are finally experienced in all their fullness.