Over the past year and a half, the effects of the pandemic on our culture and our individual lives have been significant. Our days have been clouded by any number of fears and disappointments, along with a hefty dose of confusion.
Fear has endeavored to rule in our hearts and through the media. We have had a heightened fear of death, fear of catching the virus, fear of losing a loved one, fear of getting vaccinated and fear if we did not. Then there has been the fear of lack. What if we run out of toilet paper? What if my business takes a downturn? And when some of our greatest fears became all too real, fear’s close cousin, disappointment, stood tall and claimed a victory.
With so many conflicting sources of information in the news media about everything related to the world, politics, healthcare, education, and social justice, it is easy to feel a heightened sense of chaos and confusion. Even viewing these things through the lens of the pandemic has shaped our internal thought patterns in ways we may never have suspected.
Looking back to the Spanish Flu in the early 1900’s, historians have noted that it took several years before people’s behaviors gradually returned to some sense of “normal.” Even though people were safe to live again, they did not believe that they were in the wake of so much fear and death. I wonder for us in the 21st Century, if we will remain stuck in a pandemic mindset ruled by fear, disappointment and confusion, or if we will purpose to emerge stronger and wiser, having learned some important lessons along the way.
Lesson #1. Perhaps we learned the answer to the question, “What satisfies?” While everyone has become really proficient at Zoom and Face Time, we realized that God hard-wired us to be in genuine relationships with Him and with others (John 17:11). The greatest dissatisfaction that we felt was the lack of human contact, the inability to spend in-person time with our most precious ones, and a general sense of disconnect. We grieved deeply those who have died from the pandemic, and we grieved the forced separation as we purposed to shield one another from contact with the virus. Perhaps we will emerge from the pandemic more intentional than ever to foster and nurture the relationships entrusted to our care with purpose and lovingkindness. In so doing, we are blessed with moments to spread the love that God has for each of us. To love and to be loved by God and others is what our hearts most need in order to be genuinely satisfied. Everything else we strive after in pursuit of satisfaction is a poor substitute for abundant, unconditional love.
Lesson #2. Life without hope is no life at all. Hope is “faith future.” Hope is the eager anticipation of joy. Satan, the hater of mankind, would love nothing more than to leave us face down in the ditch of frustration and shattered expectations. And he is just as happy to leave us in the ditch on the other side of the road, 100% complacent, believing that there is nothing good left to pursue. But God promises that whoever places their hopes in Him will not be disappointed (Isaiah 49:23). Whatever despair you are struggling with, I want to encourage you to give God the benefit of the doubt. Ask Him for an upgrade of hope with the restoration of the dreams you have given up on because they now seem impossible. Remember, with God, all things are possible (Mark 10:27)!
Lesson #3. Eternity is what matters most. We were created as unceasing spiritual beings with an eternal purpose in God’s Kingdom. When the pandemic knocked the legs out from under the earthly systems we have relied on for our security, provision, and joy, the frail and fleeting nature of our humanity was blatantly exposed. Oh, how we despise feeling our vulnerability! In light of our temporary sojourn on this planet, my personal heart cry for mankind during the post-pandemic era is that we will shift our focus towards understanding the power and purpose of our beings throughout eternity with God. May we accomplish that by living and working wholeheartedly to build the things that will last for forever in Christ!
2 Corinthians 4:16-17 captures it best saying, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
Through our fellowship with God, we find strength and hope to persevere through the trials of earthly life with the peace, hope, and joy that comes from knowing that there is still much more to come! God promised that He would complete the good work that He began in you, in me, and in the world (Philippians 1:6). The best news is that He is trustworthy, so give yourself over to the process without confusion or despair, and rejoice in Him, the only hope that will never, ever disappoint!
May our lives beyond the pandemic reflect the lessons learned through the experience with a renewed focus on those things that will last for eternity with the LORD. May the exposing of our humanity, our fears, and our doubts lead us to consider that God offers a better way! “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13).