At the outset of the present quarantine, everything was bizarre, electric, and controversial. People filled their time arguing over lethality, R₀ rates, and balancing lives with dollars. But the shock, the novelty and the drama are wearing off now. What about when quarantine just turns into a long, dull, wait? Managing terror is one thing. What about managing boredom?
More significantly, how will you look back on all of this in 20 years? How will COVID-19 have changed the world? How will it have changed you? I suspect several answers are possible.
Some Lives Will Implode
For some, this pressure test will prove to be too much and their lives will implode. Several years after the SARS epidemic of 2003, people who endured quarantine still showed signs of post-traumatic stress disorder—the way people coming out of wars or famine can lose their emotional equilibrium. Spread to a global scale, it’s almost certain that we will see broad impact on mental health. Even now, note the sharp uptick in Chinese filings for divorce. People stuck in a house together for two months discovered that they didn’t like each other at all. With no option to bury themselves in work or continue their independent lives, divorce was the solution. Borrowing the comment of a friend, “it turns out there’s a big difference between avoiding a virus and leading a healthy life.”*
Most People Won’t Change at All
But there’s a much more pedestrian likelihood. This should be a perfect for both churches and individuals to evaluate and re-calibrate. But few people will. They’ll slog through the next few weeks; as soon as it’s done they’ll shake it off like a bad dream and try to pick where they left off. We were shocked about how quickly our lives completely changed. The next shock is still coming—it’ll be the shock of how quickly everything goes right back to where it was. We’ll be a little poorer, we’ll probably be in recession, and everybody will know how to use Zoom. But at the core level of choices, character and priorities, nothing fundamental is going to change. That’s because people liked their values and sins a month ago—that’s why they chose to be that way in the first place, and it’s why they’ll go right back to it again. Human Character is too stubborn to be changed by a mere pandemic and shut-down of the entire planet.
But what about you?
So that’s the world. Then there’s you. How will you have handled these weeks? The question is interesting because the Christian response goes in two directions at once. If you’re wise, you won’t be shaken by what has happened; but neither will you remain unchanged.
The Wise Man Built His House on the Rock
On the one hand, your faith should be more than one crisis away from falling apart. If this pandemic shook you to your core, your worldview was too shallow to begin with. Imagine two people beside each other in church a month ago; one was there out of habit; the other was truly walking with God and thirsty for truth. At the time they looked the same. Weeks later, the differences are more obvious. That’s why Jesus spoke of a foolish man who built his life on the sand—when the storms came everything was washed away. If you have built your life on a foundation no deeper than feeling happy, being secure, and providing a “better” life for your children, it’s all gone now. You might as well panic.
But of course there are better foundations for life. COVID-19 doesn’t require wild emotional swings or massive paradigm shift. Scripture already told us this kind of thing could happen and that God alone stays the same when everything else falls apart. From a biblical perspective, the great quarantine of 2020 changed exactly nothing important about the world.
In the Day of Adversity, Consider
And yet the wise person also listens, ponders and reevaluates at such times. The quarantine shouldn’t shake you, but neither is it just something to casually shake off. Remember the words of Solomon—“In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider: God has made the one as well as the other” (Eccl. 7:14). For several weeks now, our lives have been drastically different. This wasn’t a hiatus from real life, as though the clock temporarily stopped ticking. This is your life. These are part of the few days you have on planet earth to love, serve and honor your Creator. How have done so far?
The various details of the virus will remain controversial for a long time. But can we just learn lessons from it’s mere existence? Life isn’t as safe as we thought it was. Antibiotics and modern medicine haven’t solved the problem of death after all. COVID-19 should have taught you that you were only ever an ill-timed sneeze and a few dice rolls from severe illness or death—whatever your age and present health conditions. And by all means, looking at the crisis and condemning governments for not saving us from it is the height of folly.
Because even if you make it through COVID-19 unscathed you’re still a terminal case. All of us are. It’s just a question of when.
Never Waste a Crisis
A common dictum for governments is “never waste a good crisis.” So what about you? I’m going to argue that if these weeks were merely something to get through, there’s a pretty good chance you are wasting it. But what if God just handed you a once-in-a-lifetime chance to show your kids, your relatives, your neighbors and your church that He still factors bigger in your life than anything life itself can bring? What if you could take a break from the politics and remind those around you that you’re at peace with the fact that you might die. And yet it doesn’t shake you, because God is your rock—always was and always will be.
What will be left when the dust settles? The lives and testimonies of those who built their lives on the solid rock of Jesus and His words. Is that you? —————————
- Shout out to Dustin Witmer.
Photo by Luís Ascenso, used under a Creative Commons License