When the COVID-19 pandemic first began shuttering doors across America along with many other parts of the world, I read an editorial suggesting that we shouldn’t be concerned about being productive during weeks of isolation. But as weeks turn into months, few of us are content binge-watching Netflix or cleaning out closets. Time is the most finite resource we have. As a woman in ministry, I pray daily, “Oh, Lord, let me use my time wisely and well!”
I’ve begun looking for ways to realign my thinking and remain positive and hope-filled during this unprecedented pandemic. I call these Perspective Correctives (PCs). (Maybe you would welcome some too?)
Here are a few PCs I’ve collected this week:
1. The statistics on the scope of the virus are sobering, but thankfully most who contract COVID-19 will recover. At the moment of writing this, the media is reporting that there are now more than one million known cases of coronavirus around the world, and more than 50,000 have died. But 950,000 have survived.
2. The worst circumstances in life can bring forth the best in people. Everywhere people are pulling together, supplying takeout meals for medical frontliners, sewing masks, and raising funds. Younger people are looking out for older ones, and humanitarian organizations are erecting field hospitals.
3. Some of the greatest cultural contributions have been made at times of extreme duress. A friend reminded me yesterday that during the bubonic plague, Isaac Newton was quarantined away from Cambridge and formed his theory of gravity. During the bombing of London in World War Two, a series of messages C. S. Lewis was invited to deliver on the BBC became Mere Christianity. When Shakespeare was quarantined during a season of plague, he penned three of his greatest works: Macbeth, King Lear, and Antony and Cleopatra. The apostle Paul composed at least four of his epistles while a prisoner of Rome.
But attitude adjustments and positive thinking aren’t enough in the face of a global situation causing discomfort and inconvenience at best, and extreme suffering and death at worst. We might all be sheltering in place right now, but how can we marshal what resources we do have to remind others they are not alone?
Last week I began brainstorming one small thing I can do each day to serve others from the confines of my home. Prayer is the most powerful tool we have, and sometimes it’s the only one available in our arsenal. Yet Jesus’ own brother taught us that we should hitch up actions to our good intentions:
“What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, ‘Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well’—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do?” (James 2:14-16).
And in James 1:22 (MSG), he puts it even more bluntly: “Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are a listener when you are anything but, letting the Word go in one ear and out the other. Act on what you hear!”
Whenever I speak at women’s retreats or conferences, I supply questions for personal reflection or small group discussion that I call Application & Challenge Thoughts, or simply ACTs.
So here are a few ACTion steps I’m taking this week:
1. Send notes and cards! As writer Stephanie Rische notes, this pandemic has taken many prisoners who are “languishing behind bars.”
The elderly person who can’t have visitors.
The single parent who is never off the clock.
The person battling anxiety.
The person with a compromised immune system.
The person stuck at home in an abusive relationship.
The person who lives alone and feels the ache of loneliness.
Make it your goal to send at least one note or card each day to someone who needs to know they’ve not been forgotten. If you are part of a community of faith, grab your church directory and highlight the names of those who live alone or in assisted living. (Short on stamps or supplies? Order them from the USPS here without leaving your home.)
2. Teach yourself a new skill! If you have a computer, you have access to the world. This past week, Mike watched a tutorial on YouTube that showed him how to repair our leaky roof. My Bible study leader, Sandy, taught herself how to use Zoom technology to bring our group together virtually each week. Most students are learning online during this season; we can join them and pick up skills that will further our usefulness to others.
3. Share positive, soul-lifting resources with others via social media.
Here is the link to a free animated adaptation of The Pilgrim’s Progress. Share this with families and watch it yourself!
And if you haven’t seen this glorious cell-phone choral rendition of “It Is Well with My Soul” yet, click the link, close your eyes, and let hope bathe your spirit.
Sickness may be spreading globally, but spiritual wellness is freely given through grace and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.
Copyright 2020, Maggie Wallem Rowe, author of This Life We Share: 52 Reflections on Journeying Well with God and Others