By Nicole Pugh
As the world reacts around us to the undeniable threat of a new and unprecedented pandemic, we hear the words of fear and uncertainty, and we feel the energy of panic and chaos. People are scrambling for the bread, milk, and toilet paper because that’s something they can control. But what if – WHAT IF – everything is already under control? What if God is putting things in order for us, his children, to do even more of His good work?
John Calvin wrote of the believer, “He has a solace in which he can rest more tranquilly than at the very summit of wealth and power, because he considers that his affairs are ordered by the Lord.” Control is an illusion, and one that misleads us into thinking narrow-mindedly. If our affairs are truly ordered by God, we can trust that we are being moved in a direction that He needs us to go, along the paths that are right (Psalm 23). As we’re being asked to exercise social distancing, minimize gatherings, and shift our lifestyles and routines for an indefinite length of time, our human nature can’t help but feel startled and anxious (after all, we don’t do change very well). But I propose we see the goodness in this – we see the possibility that God is ordering our lives for us that we might open ourselves, even if for a brief season, to new, renewed, or even forgotten ways of seeking Him in our everyday lives. I propose this could be a path, not of isolation, but of introspection and innovation. God’s ability to work in us and through us is limitless, and in this time of forced simplicity, what if we truly rest in Him (Psalm 37:7) and allow Him to open our minds to unique ways of being the light (Ephesians 5:8)?
Practically speaking, here are 7 ways we could begin to embrace the goodness of this time, finding rest for the soul and renewal of the mind:
- Embrace the Stillness – It is neither our nature nor our culture to be comfortable with stillness and quiet. With less to do and fewer places to be, try taking one of those free moments to practice being at ease with “doing nothing”. Have a seat in a comfortable location, and just be. Observe slowly with full attention what you hear, see, and feel. Bask in the awesomeness of the reality that God is still busy at work while you are nothing but still.
- Establish a Habit of Prayer or Meditation – It has been said that the entirety of our days are made of habits, and in order to grow we must simply replace a negative habit with a positive one. If in this time we must temporarily cease a habit in our day, consider replacing it with one of prayer and meditation. Talk to God freely. Meditate on His truth. Pray over the phone with a friend. If your prayer life is new and you find it difficult, read from a book of prayers. If meditation is foreign, find an encouraging passage and repeat it in your mind. He just wants your heart and to hear your voice.
- Take a Daily Peace Vitamin – Think of Philippians 4:6-7 as the great physician’s prescription for peace. Take as directed, every morning: 1)Don’t worry 2)Pray about everything 3)Tell God what you need 4)Thank Him for all He has done.
- Get Creative – Now could be the time to start learning a new skill (or picking up an old, abandoned one), or exploring a new hobby or physical activity. Taking on new skills is shown to boost our brain health, cognitive function, and memory. And once the quarantine requirements are lifted, we have the potential to forge new relationships with others who share these skills and activities, allowing God to open up brand new doors of discipleship.
- Journal Your Gratitude – In the wide open spaces of your calendar, find a time to stop for a little journaling. No fancy hand-lettering or special notebook required: a simple pen and notepad will do. Studies show that writing out the things you are grateful for (big or small) on a daily basis has a positive impact on our health and well-being, and stimulates a biochemical peace in our bodies. Not only that, when we focus our minds on what God has done, it sets our feet back in His presence.
- Explore Creation – The same God who breathed life into us breathed life into His creation (Genesis 1-2). When was the last time you truly experienced it? While sporting events and mass gatherings may be off-limits, God’s wonderland is open and free. Take your family and loved ones outside for a walk in the fresh air. Count how many colors He painted on the flowers. See how many types of trees you can identify. Listen to the songs He gave the birds to sing, knowing they were meant for you to hear. Even 15 minutes a day of movement outdoors can clear your mind, balance your nervous system, and boost your immunity, but it will also serve as a simple yet profound reminder that we are a part of His miraculous masterpiece.
- Find a New Ministry – Let God open your mind and heart to an innovative ministry. We can still be salt and light from a distance: virtual small groups, handwritten letters, doorstep food delivery, online book discussions, prayer chains, etc. Remember, even within mandated limits, God’s ability to work is limitless.
While the world sees chaos, let us see God moving, and ultimately directing our paths. Praise Jesus, and invite Him to order your lives, for He never fails. Ask Him to banish the fear and sense of isolation, and give you a sense of His goodness as He refines us in this time of rest and introspection. Trust that God may indeed be rebuilding us all into vessels greater and more beautiful than we could envision on our own. “For our present troubles are small and won’t last long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever” (2 Corinthians 4:17).