Yet we know God uses adversity to advance his purposes, develop the Church, teach us what we need for the days ahead, and bring glory to himself. God even says we should be joyful in the face of hard times.
"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know
that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may
be mature and complete, not lacking anything" (James 1:2-4).
This occurred to me during Year 2020, our "annus horribilis." What possibly could be good and useful, much less enjoyable about a year – actually a year and one-half and counting – of illness and deaths, slowdowns and lockdowns, masks - vaccines – mandates and controversy, government orders, loss of freedoms, and anxiety?
Well, I'm glad someone asked that question.
Now, months into and we hope largely past the worst of the pandemic, our experience and hindsight are improving our vision and our understanding. We can now actually identify some pandemic positives:
1. Reminded money is not a good measure of the quality of our lives.
Certainly, many families suffered financially from loss of hours or employment, and some are still struggling, but many others figured out they could live on less and life was not all that bad. They're not returning to the workforce, or they're doing so with an expectation of fewer hours and more flexibility. Some are taking jobs with lower financial but higher emotional and social rewards.
2. Completed long delayed initiatives. With more time away from structured employment or more forced at-home-time away from offices, some wrote books, organizations on slowdown began developing new projects, people took bucket list trips, some went back to school, and some learned new skills. Some finally fixed the back deck or the barn door, and some planted gardens for the first time in years.
3. Innovation and entrepreneurialism increased. People with more time at home, less time at work or having lost their employment, or simply drawing back to reinforce social distancing could focus on new ideas. New companies have been formed, some out of economic need, some out of sheer passion. More women and minorities launched new businesses during the pandemic than ever before.
4. Office facilities, at least for some organizations, are optional. Staff working remotely got off to checkered starts but once the bugs were worked out, with the help of online meeting platforms staff worked as effectively as ever and maybe more efficiently. Some organizations have downsized space, and some sold entire campuses.
5. Got a pet. A surge of animal adoptions resulted in something called the pandemic pet. A 7-pound, 8-week-old beagle came to our house last July. Pets are fun, no question about it. But now as people go back to the office there's concern for what will happen to last year's pets. Hopefully pet families will find ways to maintain their pet's care.
6. Rediscovered the precious nature of freedom. Controversy then and now surrounds government decisions requiring lockdowns, social distancing, and mask or vaccine mandates. Whatever your thoughts on these matters, we've come to understand that the freedoms we've historically enjoyed can easily be lost. And we've realized that community, and unity, matters, not just our individualism. We've enjoyed both in this country. God grant that both pluribus and unum continue to flourish.
7. Refocused on what really matters most. With the loss of several hundred thousand and the suffering of others, many of us paused to think about the big picture. Nothing gets our attention like death. It is the great equalizer that comes to haves and have nots, one and all. It's a wakeup call for the rest of us. It calls for us to spend more time with family and friends, focus our time on worthwhile activities that contribute to society, invest ourselves in ways that benefit others. Some of us re-evaluated our sense of purpose and direction, redefining how we want, Lord willing, to spend the rest of our lives. We have been reminded that life is short and only what's done for the Lord will last.
8. Experienced God's goodness. God was not surprised by COVID, nor was he perplexed by the seemingly infinite social ripple effects we've experienced. In the face of adversity, as always, God was there, and he made himself known to those who looked to him. God is good, we were reminded, even in the throes of a virulent virus, confusion, and anxiety.
Scripture says, "Rejoice always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus" (1 Thess. 5: 16-18).
No, we'd not ask God to send us a pandemic, but when in his sovereignty he does so, we say, "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven" (Matt 6:9-10).
Dr. Rex M. Rogers, President SAT-7 USA