It started with a phone call.
“Christie called. She wanted to tell me about a job opportunity.”
My wife’s tone in telling me about a conversation she had with her former boss was one of pleasant surprise. It was completely unexpected and came at a time when we were weighing our options with regards to leaving our apartment and renting a house.
As it turned out, this new job opportunity for my wife opened the door to us moving into the house we’re now renting. Not only were we able to afford the rent for our current place, but this house also allowed us to have my mother-in-law move in with us once again (we shared a house with her in Tampa for nearly ten years).
This all happened last Fall, with moving day being the day after Thanksgiving. And we’ve been grateful ever since.
As we find ourselves in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s never been more apparent to me how God was working back then to position us now to be better safeguarded from this virus. Weeks before the outbreak first began in Wuhan, China, we were dealing with movers and utility companies and sore backs. Months before we had any realization of what the phrase ‘novel coronavirus’ meant, our focus was on furniture and fixtures. But it’s clear to me God’s focus was on us.
“Can you imagine?”
Lee and I ask ourselves that question almost daily. As we manage our day to day during this safer-at-home season, we wonder what it would have been like had we not moved into this house. With my mother-in-law living twenty miles away in Ozark, Alabama, what would we have done if we were still in our apartment? I think we’d have no choice but to have her temporarily move in with us and take residence in our guest bedroom, a room with only a futon no television.
We would most certainly feel as if we were on top of each other, sharing an already crammed kitchen. Lee and I shared an office in that apartment, a situation that would have been nearly impossible to manage with me working from home during this period (Lee’s current position is 100% remote work).
Truth be told, I cannot begin to imagine it.
But the problems in that scenario would be nothing compared to what others are facing today. Single parents on the verge of losing their livelihood because they have to stay home with their children. Children – as detailed in this amazing piece by Udonis Haslem – whose only real meal of the day was provided by their school. Adults who can no longer visit their aging parents in person. Families who continue to grieve the passing of a loved one.
Yes, these times we’re living through suck right now. As optimistic as we want to be about the end of this pandemic, the reality is ‘normalcy’ may still be many months away. There are so many voices, so many opinions, so much disunity as a result of this virus; I am afraid things may never be quite ‘normal’ again.
But one thing is clear. Hope.
Hope in our medical community, hope in our researchers, and, most importantly, hope in our Heavenly Father.
There is a quote from Mark Batterson that I absolutely love and I try to apply every day to my life. “PRAY like it depends on God. WORK like it depends on you.”
God will always deliver according to His timing, but we each have to do our part in the process. I trust in God and have confidence he will get us through this pandemic. I also trust that God gave the medical professionals and experts the intellect to battle this virus and communicate their findings to the rest of us. I trust God gave me the wisdom to practice the mitigation techniques for preventing the spread of the virus. Hand washing, social distancing, wearing a mask; where others see this as a burden or an imposition, I choose to see it as my way of loving my neighbor.
It’s become mentally fatiguing to read about individuals scoffing at the notion of being cautious with this virus. They proudly and defiantly say God will protect them.
Yes, God is capable of anything, and He may very well choose to provide blanket immunity to the virus to select individuals. But the same logic God-fearing individuals apply to buckling up their seat belt when they get in their car is the same logic that applies to adhering to mitigation protocols against the virus.
I’ll take the analogy one step further. In the same way I would secure my children when they were young in their car seat – because I love them and want to make sure they’re protected – I wear a mask in public because I want to make sure my neighbor is protected.
The extent to which I love God is evident in the extent to which I love other people.
I have to do my part to protect myself, protect my family, and protect my neighbor. I do this all the while asking God to bring an end to this time of pain and uncertainty. Trusting God and taking precautions are not mutually exclusive actions.
“PRAY like it depends on God. WORK like it depends on you.”
This brings me back to the purpose of this post. I firmly believe what will get us through this crisis is gratitude. I know it sounds counter-intuitive. With people losing their jobs, their sanity, and even their lives, how or why would they/we be thankful?
Since the beginning of this pandemic, there’s been a part of me that’s felt if I could be so bold as to try to understand God’s will in all of this, perhaps it is to make us shift our focus onto Him. In every year and across every generation, it’s been so easy to point to something in particular and say, “this is because we’ve lost sight of God.” To be honest, it’s an over-used and conveniently overplayed trope in our national conversation. Still, in this election year where the dissonance between ‘both sides’ has simply grown bigger and wider, it makes sense to me that God is using this as a proverbial slap in the face to wake us up.
In taking a macro view of this pandemic, I am humbled by what I see as blessing upon blessing upon blessing. No matter how I’ve been impacted, no matter how I’ve been inconvenienced, the fact I am not mourning the death of a family member is a blessing from God. Of the over 77,000 deaths in the United States, those have all occurred to ‘other people’. That was the case until this week when I was notified my father’s close friend from New York passed away. Patsy’s death was a result of complications arising from COVID-19, and it’s the first virus-related death of someone I knew personally.
I can’t begin to imagine what Patsy’s family is going through. I can’t begin to imagine what the families of the over quarter-million people worldwide who’ve succumbed to this disease are going through. I am thankful I don’t have to, and I am praying – and working – fervently to ensure I don’t have to.
I want to be close to God always. But especially in these times, I want to be close to Him. I need to be close to Him. And I think Tara-Leigh Cobble says it best in her The Bible Recap podcast. “Remembering God is directly connected to our gratitude and thanksgiving. When we express gratitude to God, it knits our hearts to Him and it prompts us to be much more likely to walk closely with Him.”
Repent, all of you who forget me,
or I will tear you apart,
and no one will help you.
But giving thanks is a sacrifice that truly honors me.
If you keep to my path,
I will reveal to you the salvation of God.
–Psalm 50:22-23 NLT