“Because of COVID…” If I had a dollar for every time that I’ve heard someone say this phrase in the last year and a half, I would be a rich man—or at least I’d be able to afford those new running shoes that I’ve been eyeing.
So many people, myself included, have made a habit of using this little saying as a kind of catch-all explainer.
Because of COVID, my surgery was delayed.
Because of COVID, I haven’t seen some people in my church for months.
Because of COVID, big crowds feel uncomfortable.
Because of COVID, we can’t travel overseas to visit our family.
Because of COVID, we don’t use offering bags at church.
Because of COVID, we didn’t have our high school graduation.
Because of COVID, revenue fell dramatically.
Because of COVID, our wedding was postponed until next year.
Because of COVID, they don’t serve samples at Costco anymore.
Because of COVID, you should always have a mask in your purse.
Because of COVID, you need to sign-in or register wherever you go.
Because of COVID, I feel the need to read the news every day, and more news, and still more news.
You can surely add to this list. Ever since February 2020, we’ve seen many changes to ordinary life. The change has been rapid, and the change has been extensive. We think sometimes about all the things that we used to do but cannot any longer. We think about the ways in which we’ve had to deal with a host of new inconveniences and fresh hassles and further disappointments.
And it’s all ‘because of COVID.’ Everyone knows what you mean when you say this: it means restrictions, precautions, cancelations, adjustments, delays, fears, and sadly, also divisions in churches and families. This catchphrase explains almost anything that didn’t go according to plan in the last year and a half. It explains almost anything that is now markedly different from those carefree and idyllic days that we enjoyed in January 2020.
Without question, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to many negative effects, globally and locally and personally. Today we witness the ongoing effects in church life, in broader society, in civil government, in families and marriages. We hear about the serious effects on mental health. We wonder how long we’re going to be paying for some of the government aid programs.
And indeed, some of us have lost loved ones to COVID, or seen others struggle with the symptoms of the illness for months. The suffering has been real, and we seek the Father’s grace to faithfully and fruitfully bear up under the trials that He has sent.
But let me also encourage you to think about our preferred phrase from a different angle, with a perspective that has been sanctified by the Word of God and prayer.
Ponder for a moment some of the ways in which God has been using the COVID-19 pandemic to bring about blessing and growth for his people.
Because of COVID, we value more highly the gift of communal worship.
Because of COVID, we have stayed more closely connected to our loved ones.
Because of COVID, we have prayed more earnestly for the civil government.
Because of COVID, we have all learned to Zoom—and being comfortable with this
kind of remarkable technology has opened up exciting new possibilities for teaching, collaborating, learning, and meeting.
Because of COVID, we’ve had to think seriously about our priorities in life.
Because of COVID, we have felt a sense of community with our nonbelieving neighbours, and we have been more inclined in Christian love to ask them how they’re doing.
Because of COVID, we have been willing to reach out to the church members whom we haven’t seen for months.
Because of COVID, we have been more grateful for the good health care in our country.
Because of COVID, we have had to think about what really unites us as church: our shared faith in Jesus Christ, even when we disagree on other, far less important topics.
Because of COVID, we have really learned the meaning of another phrase that we love to use, ‘the Lord willing’ (James 4:13-15). Now we probably understand far better the truth that the plans we so confidently make for next month or next year might not come to fruition, but that we need to depend completely on the sovereign will of our God and Father.
You can surely add your own blessings to this list—indeed, how has God grown you, and your family, and your church during these ‘COVID-times’?
Because of COVID, we have struggled, but we have also learned. In the last eighteen months, we have experienced again the infallible truth of Scripture that in times of afflictions and trials, our loving God tests our faith so that it might produce good things: patience, wisdom, trust, perseverance, and hope.