Thriving with God during COVID-19
I wanted to reach out to share a few words of encouragement, and to see how you’re all doing as the strictest measures of social distancing are now upon us. I know it probably feels like time is slowing down, and that many are probably feeling a lot of anxiety, if not panic. It all seems so unbelievable, and few of us have any analogous experiences to this. I’ve been reflecting a lot lately about how revealing these days are becoming; revealing our fears and idols— revealing our character, and that of our community and civic leaders. It’s revealing a lot about our society, and how fragile our systems and rituals are. It’s revealing good things and bad things, about humanity, global societies, our communities, and our own hearts. But in revealing all these things, a time like this can also become a crucible that God uses in our lives to mold us further into the person and image of Jesus Christ.
I’ve always struggled to truly connect with the season of Lent. I didn’t grow up in a liturgical church, and it wasn’t until we started observing Lent at Veritas that I even began to explore it at all. But to be honest, sometimes I even struggle to really connect with seasons like Christmas and Easter, because there are often so many other things seeking our attention— seeking to distract us from the (Christian) reason for the season. The past week has been such a blur, and so full of distraction, that I almost forgot it was the season of Lent. But in the past few days I’ve begun to try to be grateful to the Lord. Not thankful for the fear or danger that so many of us are feeling— but thankful for the distractions I’m beginning to realize God has been prying out of my life, albeit through the hands of our state leaders (for whom I am grateful, and for whom we must continue to pray for everyday). Even simple things like coffee shop stopovers and grabbing a bite to eat in the midst of the work day are things I now realize I’ve taken for granted, but also things that reveal the comfort and convenience I secretly idolize at times. So I’m beginning to look at all of this as a forced way of fasting— from more than just the token item or habit I might have offered up to God at the start of Lent, but also from the many deeper things I might have never thought to give to God.
So as this season of social distancing begins, I pray that we can join together in using it as a time to move closer to the Lord, asking that he reveal himself more clearly to us, and asking that he reveal the things about ourselves that create sinful distance between us and him.
23 Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!
24 And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting! – Psalm 139:23-24
There are undoubtedly already a million lists of things popping up on social media and the internet that you can do for the foreseeable future as our lives continue to be upended by the precautionary measures to prevent the rapid spread of disease. I’ve got my own list of books and shows stacking up that I would be happy to share offline, but I want to just share a few things with you to help you make the most of this unusual (one can never predict the future, but this may be the only time some of us ever experience something like this in our lifetimes) season.
- Stay in Community: The Veritas staff team is doing a great job of thinking through what it looks like for us to continue to be the church without Sunday morning gatherings as we’ve known them. Be sure to take advantage of the opportunities to follow along with the Rhythms Series and liturgy throughout the rest of Lent. I know it’s a real challenge, especially now with the diminishing sizes of recommended group interaction, but be committed and creative as you try to stay in contact with your community group. Having a strong network of community groups is as important as ever, so look to technology and safe, outdoor opportunities to be together, throughout the week, and on Sundays. One key tactic might also be to check the list of regular participation in your group to make sure that everyone is staying connected. You may even find that this season draws some of your stragglers back to more consistent community, as we all realize how much we really need each other after all. Remember to (carefully) check in on your neighbors too, especially those who are older or immunocompromised. We could have never planned for a time like this, but it will be an incredible opportunity to love, serve, and comfort our community
- Give Grace: As important as it is to make the most of this season, you should also be ready to show yourself, and others, a lot of grace. The panic and anxiety of it all may ebb a bit as we all adjust, but it may also cause us to say, do, or ‘like’ things on social we wouldn’t under more normal circumstances. And if things do get worse as the pain of this is felt disproportionately across our community, we need to be ready to be kind and gracious peacemakers.
- Go to God’s Word: Perhaps this goes without saying, but try to make more time to study, meditate, or memorize the Bible. I know the temptation to track news coverage and social media reactions is strong, but weeks and years from now, you’ll be glad you spent this season listening to God’s words more than the fleeting pontificates of influencers and talking heads. And as C.S. Lewis reminded us, “Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world,” which is to say that in times like this, we may actually hear more of God’s words than in other times.
- Record the ‘Aha’ Moments: Our memories are generally weak, and the older we get, the more cloudy our recollection of poignant experiences can become. Even if you can’t make the time to keep a daily journal, try to find ways to capture or record the more powerful or profound observations and reflections that God calls to mind during these days. Not only will it help you process those things more in the present, it will help you call to mind the essence of those lessons as you get older and gain even more perspective on these crazy times.
- Take Breaks: It’s already been exhausting to try to keep up with the changes and additional measures of social distancing, and the endless commentary on social media is impossible to follow and digest. Make sure you’re finding time to step back from it all, even if it means not being on the ground floor of the next big cycle of breaking news. And even though there are now no places to congregate and kick back with your friends, try to get outside for a walk or a hike. As of now, all of our metro parks are still open, even though the nature centers have all closed. Leaving your phone in your car and going for a walk through the woods will help you let go of a lot of the stress and anxiety about how upside down things feel, and you might find the quiet stillness of nature to be where God brings those ‘Aha’ moments of peace to mind.
Lastly, if you find yourself struggling to process everything, you’re in good company. But if you really begin to feel the walls closing in on you, please reach out to me, one of your co-leaders or community group members, or a member of Veritas staff for some much needed prayer, encouragement, or support.
In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety. – Psalm 4:8
In love and hope,