In my 80 years of life, I’ve never seen anything like this before.
These words from a sister in Christ have been seared in my mind. The past few weeks have been unlike anything we’ve ever experienced — or perhaps will ever experience — in our lifetime.
Coronavirus has killed tens of thousands of people and sickened so many more. People have lost jobs. Healthcare workers and first responders have risked their lives on the front lines. Our normal routines have been abruptly disrupted. Finding the positives in all of this is challenging.
But the more I’ve reflected on the past few weeks, I see evidences of God’s grace in my life even in the midst of the challenges. Here’s what I’m thankful for during this season:
1. I’m thankful for extra time with family.
A few months ago, my wife and I pulled out the calendar and filled its pages with all the upcoming events, meetings, ministry responsibilities, trips, parties and more. Needless to say, the calendar was full — and we were overwhelmed.
In the days since, though, our calendar (like yours) has been completely cleared. All of those events and appointments have been canceled. In the blink of an eye, the rushing and stress was all but gone. And, I must confess, the simplified schedule has been refreshing.
We prioritized family time before, but in recent weeks we’ve been able to spend even more time together. Our kids play outside for hours and hours. We all stay up a little later, and we let the kids sleep in. We prioritize family devotions more than in the past. And as a pastor who typically leads worship from behind the pulpit, I now get to worship with my family.
This decluttered calendar has given me extra time with my family, and I imagine I’ll always look back on this season with fondness.
Even though we can’t be together during this time, our church has been like a real-life family to us.
2. I’m thankful for the church.
“The church is family.” I regularly repeat this refrain in our worship gatherings, reminding us that the church is not a building or even a weekly event; the church is, in fact, a people — a family of brothers and sisters adopted by the same Heavenly Father.
Some might say this notion of church as family is merely a cliché. Is it really true? This crisis has forced me to answer this question with an enthusiastic yes. I have deeply missed being with my church family, and I long to see them again.
But even though we can’t be together during this time, our church has been like a real-life family to us. A church member calls us at least once per day to check on us. Someone dropped off a present to make our son’s birthday special after his party was cancelled. And since our biological family is states away, we have leaned on these brothers and sisters like never before. Yes, we truly are a family.
On Holy Week, we remember Jesus’ death and resurrection. But this season has reminded me that Jesus didn’t just die to redeem us as individuals; he died to redeem a people (Titus 2:14). He loves the church, and so should we. I see that truth even more clearly now.
3. I’m thankful for churches’ newfound missional creativity.
Pastors and church leaders have had to embrace a missional creativity in recent weeks — a willingness to experiment with new methods and ideas to communicate with our people and reach the lost.
My church, for example, created a plan to call and pray for every member and attendee each week. We developed new online outreach methods and delivery systems. We also experimented with new ways to deliver prayer requests. And we were forced to make all these changes within the span of a week.
Of course, we must remember what can never change (the gospel and God’s innerant Word). We must also ensure our ecclesiology is sound. But once we have these sure foundations, I pray we can harness this spirit of missional creativity and redirect it towards new ends when our churches gather again.
Perhaps we’ll cling a little less closely to stagnant methods and personal preferences and think outside the box as we seek to reach our neighbors. We will be stronger, more outward-focused as a result.
Perhaps we’ll cling a little less closely to stagnant methods and personal preferences and think outside the box as we seek to reach our neighbors.
4. I’m thankful for how God’s growing me.
Seasons of suffering or change are rarely comfortable or easy. On the contrary: They’re often painful, confusing and overwhelming. But God often does his best work in our lives when we are stretched beyond our limits. He forces us to depend wholeheartedly on him, and he exposes to us what we really value. Seasons like this can be a time for repentance and growth.
I’ve learned much about the character of God and about myself during this time. Perhaps you have, too. This season is not easy, but allow it to be a gift in your life.
What are you thankful for during this season?