Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Purpose in a Pandemic

“There is a season (a time appointed) for everything and a time for every delight and even or purpose under heaven…
A time to be born and a time to die; A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted.
A time to kill and a time to heal; A time to tear down and a time to build up.
A time to weep and a time to laugh; A time to mourn and a time to dance.
A time to throw away stones and a time to gather stones; A time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing.
A time to search and a time to give up as lost; A time to keep and a time to throw away.
A time to tear apart and a time to sew together; A time to keep silent and a time to speak.
A time to love and a time to hate; A time for war and a time for peace.
…He has made everything beautiful in its time…I have seen that there is nothing better than that a man should be happy in his own works and activities, for that is his portion (share).”
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8; 11; 22

This scripture came to mind during the last (almost) 2 months of quarantine. It feels a lot longer than that, especially for those of us who are extroverts and crave friendship, girl’s nights, and get togethers. 
No one in this current generation or even in their parents’ generation has ever experienced anything like this before. The closest thing I could think of would have been the fear of our men overseas fighting in World War II and certain items being on ration. We aren’t fighting anything we can see, and we aren’t necessarily being rationed (although score gold stars for you if you can find cleaning supplies and toilet paper on the shelf right now). But, it is still a situation that incites fear, worry, anxiety, and stress unlike many of us have ever experienced. Despite the news and media telling us how we are living in trying, unprecedented, and unsure times, we can be sure of one thing, God is up to something.
Do I believe that God orchestrated this to teach us all a lesson? No, I am not going there either. As much as there is a good and heavenly Father looking down on us, there is also real evil in this world and because of that fact alone, we live in a fallen world and bad stuff happens. Yes, sometimes bad things happen to good people. I am not going to get all into theology and answering life’s questions as to why. But, I also can’t help but pause and think that even though we are in the middle of a pandemic we can find purpose here. 
If we want to sit here and dwell on the negative, we can certainly find it. But, if we want to dwell on the positive and uplifting and ask God to reveal to us something he wants us to see and learn from all this, he will. 
For example, I am a busy body. I am usually always doing something. I like to have something planned or a something to accomplish. Well, since that is all out the window, God is teaching me to enjoy the unplanned, the laidback, and mundane days that are seeming to all roll into each other. I can find contentment in being busy and I can find contentment in having nothing to do. 
Another area this is teaching me is to be a good steward of everything God has given me. How am I spending my time and who am I spending it with? (Let’s get real, when my Apple screen time showed me that I went from 2 hours a day on my phone to 6, I felt some conviction). How am I spending my money and am I saving any (for situations like these if I had lost my job, what would that look like)? How am I raising my children and am I imparting to them the basic spiritual principles I want them to grow up on (or have I given way too much of that responsibility to our church)? How am I stewarding my health? Have I ever paid attention before to how much sleep I get on a regular basis? What about exercise and eating right? Am I filling up on junk and expecting a 6 pack by summer? (Hmmm, maybe I need to tweak my habits).
 Listen many of us may have a lot more time on our hands than we know what to do with and although I don’t want to pressure anyone to do get up and do something they are uncomfortable with because our mental, social, emotional health are a bit fragile right now. The last thing we need in a crisis is pressure. What we need, instead, is purpose! 
So where do you even begin? With whatever the next right thing is for you. Maybe it starts with journaling where you are and where you want to be. Maybe it starts with creating a vision board and a plan of action for where you are right now in some of those areas of your life and thinking through the next practical steps to where you would like to be. 
Maybe you want to save more money for when the next crisis hits so you won’t be in such a state of despair- start with something small like an automatic draft of $25 a month into a savings account and build on that when you can. 
Maybe you want to start reading your Bible more or reading it with your kids. Instead of feeling the pressure to do it every day, start with once a week- maybe a Sunday evening before your week begins. Perhaps reading a scripture and asking the members of your family what they want to pray about is a good start. 
Perhaps you want to begin exercising or eating right. Start small- walk around your neighborhood or on the treadmill 10-15 minutes a day and build from there. Look up healthy recipes online and write down the ingredient list so the next time you go to the store you’ll have everything you need to make it. 
I could go on and on, but your purpose is to take care of you so that you can then fulfill the God-given purpose God created you to fill. That looks different for every single one of us. If you feel a tug to do something do the next small step that will get you there. 
A friend recently texted me “through the pressure and through waiting, that, my friend, is how diamonds are created.” This pressure, this pandemic that we are going through right now is going to make us stronger, braver, and refine our beauty like nothing else. It is during the most difficult moments of my life that I felt drawn to God’s presence and got to know him the most than in the most prosperous times. This pandemic has not drowned out your purpose. In fact, it is in the middle of all this that God is wanting to work in you to reveal what has been hidden in the dark, remove what needs to be removed, and place in you the strength, resolve, tenacity, and resiliency to be able to fulfill the purposes placed on this Earth only you can fill. 
“…He has also placed eternity [a sense of divine purpose] in the human heart [a mysterious longing which nothing under the sun can satisfy, except God] -yet man cannot find out (comprehend, grasp) what God has done (His overall plan) from the beginning to the end.” Ecclesiastes 3:11

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