In the span of just a few weeks, I’ve observed how all of my friends back in America suddenly find themselves homeschooling and working remotely. Routines have been disrupted, plans have been dramatically changed, and we all wonder what the new normal is going to look like.
This is certainly an unprecedented world situation. It also reminds me of normal life as an international colleague. Certainly, there are the obvious parallels:
- We have been homeschooling for years.
- I’ve been working remotely basically since 2013, and our routines are, well, routinely disrupted.
- In 2018, we also experienced a medical evacuation, and while we weren’t under quarantine, I mostly had to stay at home and care for three young kids and a pregnant wife who was on partial bed rest.
- We were in South Africa and we traveled by plane, so we had no car, no friends, and we were living in a culture that we were not familiar with. (Yes, South Africa is different from Mozambique.)
There’s no shortage of helpful tips out there for working from home, keeping your kids’ education up, and other practical advice. Maybe I’ll share a few of my own later. What I see largely missing is the big picture perspective that can help ease anxiety and keep us hopeful in uncertain times.
I think the most important thing we can do right now is to embrace hardship and uncertainty. At the risk of stating the obvious, we need to accept this reality. Throughout years of traveling and serving the Lord around the world, what I have observed is that I, as an American, do not like the idea of pain and suffering. Hardship is a reality in this broken world, and all of us are experiencing this to one degree or another at the same time. We resist. We don’t think it’s fair. But it’s reality. The sooner we accept it, the sooner we can adapt to our new normal. It doesn’t mean we have to like it; it just means that we stop resisting the truth of it.
There’s another reason why accepting the reality of difficulty is important. I keep seeing and feeling a new wave of anxiety covering the world. Anxiety works by keeping us at a distance with the possibilities. Its chief weapon is to convince us that if such and such were to happen, we could not handle it, and so, we avoid. We distract. This is not a healthy kind of distraction like we all should practice, but it’s the type of distraction that seeks to avoid at all costs the possibility of entertaining the idea that something difficult could happen. As a result, we never come face-to-face with difficulty square on and we never see that, with God’s help, we can get through it.
I’ve been in many painful situations over the past several years that have challenged me at every level. I was riddled with anxiety through most of it. What God helped me see along the way is that when I embrace the reality of suffering in a broken world, I open myself up to God‘s grace pouring into my life in ways it simply can’t if I deny it. What I found is that God gives me exactly enough strength for today or else He allows me to feel my weakness even more so that that I might run to Him even more.
I suspect that all of us are going to have a little bit more time for reflection in the coming weeks, and what my Greek professor in seminary said to me during our medical evacuation still rings true to me.
- Read through 2 Corinthians.
- Observe how the power of Jesus largely comes through weakness and suffering.
It would be a pity if we just self soothe through entertainment during this crisis and didn’t stop and realize that God is shaping us into His image through these trials. This is the perfect time for seeing God‘s strength perfected through our weakness.