By Deb Griest
There are certain events that have occurred in our lives that are so ingrained that we can remember where we were, what happened, and how we reacted. I’m dating myself here, bu I can remember where I was (at age 4) when JFK was shot. I used to work for NASA, and I remember everything about the day the Challenger rocket exploded. I bet all of us remember where we were and the circumstances of our lives on 9/11/2001. Some of us can even recall the moment we sensed that God loved us.
God uses these pivotal events to change us. We will never be the same because we are part of the generation that experienced a world-wide pandemic. I can remember my husband and I watching the news in Florida two years ago as the first case of COVID-19 was reported in the US. We were concerned, but there was no way we could have anticipated the impact this little germ would have on our lives and our world.
The impact of these significant events on who we are and how we see the world depend on how we process and respond to them. Often, they are unsettling and leave us very aware of our own vulnerability, the unpredictability of life, and how important some aspects of our life really are.
In the Old Testament God – through Isaiah – told the Israelites (who had been captured and were in exile), “Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction.” I think we have been sitting in the furnace of affliction for the past two years whether we have been isolated and lonely, stressed out trying to ensure that our kids are still learning, or totally exhausted as we care for and minister to others.God is working to refine us.
- What refinement has God brought to your life over these past two years? Have you even had the chance to think about how you and your value systems are different now?
- Have you allowed God to pull you into a deeper sense of trust in Him through all this or have you simply tried to power through it all on your own strength?
- How have you changed? What have you noticed about yourself as we continue to wait for all of this to be over?
I think it’s really important that we answer these questions for ourselves because otherwise we could miss the lessons God has been trying to teach us and the damage the evil one may have inflicted without our knowledge.
In working with all kinds of people I have noticed both good and bad changes over the past two years. Many people who have become much more aware of how important their closest friends and family members are to them. Going forward they hope to prioritize things in their lives so that they can spend more time with these people. For many people, God is teaching them the importance of deep community and setting boundaries around their time.
I’m also aware of how unsettling the uncertainty of these past two years has been for many people. Many people are paralyzed by not knowing what is going to happen next. If this you, God may be presenting you the opportunity to trust Him more deeply and asking you to attend more to the present moment than to anticipating and trying to control the future.
I think the circumstances of this long time of affliction have been used by the evil one to draw some people into a heightened sense of their own vulnerability. Some have been drawn closer to God, but many have responded by demanding that their rights and expectations be attended to. Many leaders and service providers have felt beat up and stressed out because of others’ impatience, demands, and downright meanness. Who would have thought that hoarding toilet paper would have become an issue in the most prosperous country in the world or that flight attendants and health care workers would be vulnerable to abuse and violence on a regular basis? These are extreme examples, but ask yourself, “When I have I fought for or complained about something that really wasn’t that critical? When I have left someone else disadvantaged or feeling disrespected?” We’ve all done it.
On a positive note, there have also been many, many stories of people going out of their way to help others. Perhaps you have looked after an elderly neighbor, gone to the store for a sick family, donated more to social services organizations, or volunteered more of your time than normal. How have these experiences changed you?
The bottom-line question is this: “What is God asking us to pay attention to as a result of our extraordinary experiences these last two years?” We know he wastes nothing, so He is trying to change us forever, and for the good.
There is so much to be hopeful about and encouraged by from this season. We CAN emerge from all of this stronger, more resilient, more compassionate, and more aware of the disparities in our society. We’re told in 1 Peter 5:10 “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”
God is “making all things new” (Revelation 21:5). This season of COVID is not going to last forever, but it is also not going to end abruptly. When you look back ten years from now, what will you say that God refined in you because of this period in your life?
Live into that change now!!!!
Deb Griest is the Executive Director and a Retreat Director for Seeking Stillness Ministries (www.seekingstillness.org)