From the loss of tens of thousands of lives to the loss of millions of jobs, the coronavirus crisis has been a great tragedy. I know most of us are growing weary of this whole crisis–the social distancing, the quarantine, the sheltering in place, and all the frustrations and inconveniences associated with the new world of our pandemic. I hear over and over that people are just tired of it, and ready to get back to normal. And I get it.
But as I have mentioned on a few occasions in the last month, my prayer through this crisis is that we never get back to “normal” again. Now I know many people just want to get back to a routine, and I realize that for most, normal was moving along pretty well. We had church, extended family, friends, sports, school, jobs, open restaurants and parks, and a whole lot more of the pleasures and luxuries we have come to expect living in America in the 21st century.
But on the other side, there have been many signs that even in these times of prosperity, things were not all good. Our nation has been in a steady downward spiral morally for some time, and it’s not been hard to see that we have lost our way. And though the economy has been great for a while, we have become more materialistic than ever, and many have been over-committed and often too busy for God. Across the board, there’s been a steady erosion of the foundations of our society–including church and family life–and the worst part, we have come to accept all this as “normal.”
Many of us have said for years that we wanted the Lord to turn the tables over in our churches and in our nation, and bring revival. Even a few months ago in our sermon study of Acts 4, we joined the early church in praying that the Lord would “shake us” out of our comfort zones, and move us to where He wants us to be. I’m sure many just thought that was Sunday sermon talk, but I believe it was more than that. It was a heartfelt desire for change. For repentance. For an awakening. And things can’t all stay the same, if you really want it to be different.
I know this season has produced major upheaval in most of our lives. Many have been separated from family. Some have lost jobs. Others have had to work from home, while also trying to teach their children. Sports seasons have been lost, and graduations cancelled. And so many of our public church gatherings have come to a screeching halt. Truly, the Lord has “shaken” us.
As we are starting to see some light at the end of the tunnel, with the possibilities of some of the restrictions coming to an end soon, I think we would all do well to pay attention to what the Lord has been doing in our lives over the past month and a half, to move us from our comfort zones, to shake us from our normal, to bring us to a “new normal.” What the new normal will look like remains to be seen. But I hope we don’t waste this opportunity to re-evaluate our lives, re-prioritize our schedules and re-focus on what really matters, as we re-boot our routines in the coming weeks.
Even when the time comes that we are able to resume public church gatherings, we don’t know what that will look like, but I can almost guarantee you things will not be like they were before the quarantine. It will be much more difficult to restart things than it was to stop them. It won’t be like we can just flip a switch and everything returns to “normal,” as it was in early March. I would expect there to be an incremental opening, with necessary changes in schedule, as well as limitations on what we can and should do for a while. There will also be some new opportunities for ministry brought on by our move into the realm of “virtual church” over the past month. Through it all, I hope you will be patient as we seek to discern God’s will and navigate through the changes ahead.
But more than just the logistics of schedules and programming, I pray that the Lord will have reshaped us, individually as Christ-followers and collectively as a church. That in this time where many of us have had to “be still,” that we have come to “know that He is God” in a whole new way. That in our time of forced “shelter,” we will have found where our true shelter and hiding place is, in Christ. That in our time apart as a church, we will come to appreciate the value of face-to-face community, of “one-anothering” one another, and public worship.
Imagine the joy, the tears, the celebration when we do get back together! I can hardly wait. In the mean time, do not grow weary, or get discouraged or frustrated. We will get through this, together, and I think we will be better from going through it. I am praying for you all, as I hope you are for me, and please, continue to be safe, be wise, and be faithful. We love you.