Years ago, when facing surgery for prostate cancer, John Piper wrote an article titled: “Don’t Waste Your Cancer” In this article Piper suggests that a cancer diagnosis is an opportunity to remember God’s truth, and grow to be more like Christ. What Piper says about cancer could also be said about our current, challenging situation.
While conditions differ from state to state, most locations have been under some sort of “safer at home” or “shelter in place” guideline. After weeks of this, most of us can’t wait for the restrictions to end. But as we strain against our current confinement, I worry that we may miss the lessons God wants to teach us during this time. Toward that end, I want to offer five principles to help us avoid wasting our lockdown:
Pay Attention To Your Temptations
The economic and relational stresses we have experienced during this pandemic are profound, and these stresses can highlight the weak points in our spiritual armor. In times like this, many of us turn to substances, sex, and media in order to try and drive away the anxiety and worry we experience. Drug, alcohol, and pornography use have all greatly increased during this time.
Recently, a friend reminded me of the story of King David, in 2 Samuel 11. In this text we read that David stayed home from battle, walked his roof, saw a married woman bathing, and then called her to come have sex with him. David put himself in a vulnerable place, and he fell into sin. While we may not have chosen our current confinement, we are in a vulnerable place like David was.
Metaphorically, we have been forced onto our roofs. We have been pushed into a place of isolation and vulnerability. With these unchosen pressures it might seem like we are destined to fail. But David’s story is not the only story of temptation in Scripture. When Joseph was a slave, he also faced sexual temptation. We read his story in Genesis 39 starting in verse 6b;
“…Now Joseph was handsome in form and appearance. 7 And after a time his master's wife cast her eyes on Joseph and said, “Lie with me.” 8 But he refused and said to his master's wife, “Behold, because of me my master has no concern about anything in the house, and he has put everything that he has in my charge. 9 He is not greater in this house than I am, nor has he kept back anything from me except you, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” 10 And as she spoke to Joseph day after day, he would not listen to her, to lie beside her or to be with her.” - Genesis 39:6b-10
Like David’s temptation, Joseph’s was also close to home. But Joseph didn’t choose his confinement. Joseph’s slavery kept him in a place where he was confronted daily with opportunities to sin. But Joseph’s commitment to God kept him faithful during his confinement. Nearness to temptation does not need to result in failure. We are not destined to fail during our time of lockdown.
Identifying our vulnerabilities is so important if we hope to avoid sin. What vices do you turn to when you are feeling lonely or overwhelmed? What behavior patterns emerge in your life when you feel out of control? Answering these questions can help us avoid wasting our lockdown.
Choose Your News Sources Carefully
Most of us are getting stir-crazy, and for many of us, our suspicion toward the authorities is also growing. In this climate, we may be enticed by voices that are neither wise nor accurate. There are two questions I would encourage you to ask to help determine what news sources deserve your attention during this pandemic.
First; Every Christian would undoubtedly agree that truthfulness is essential, but it is often tempting to disregard this principle. When we dislike an authority figure and we come across a story that paints them in a bad light, we are inclined to believe what that story says. But we shouldn’t let fear and distrust drive us to believe convenient lies. I have recently seen an increase in false stories and conspiracy theories spreading in Christian circles. This concerns me deeply. Those who follow the Way the Truth and the Life mustn’t have causal attitude about what is true. We should seek to verify reports, and only share accurate stories.
Second, we should also consider; How is consuming this report affecting me emotionally? In our free market economy, many news outlets exaggerate and incite fear so they can maintain our attention. Christians shouldn’t be ignorant about what is going on in our world. But in this time, we should probably be spending less time on social media and avoid watching news outlets that whip us up into an emotional frenzy. Let’s focus on being faithful today, in our jobs (if we are working), to our families, and most of all to our God. And let’s not let discernment be a casualty of the coronavirus.
Consider How You Are Using Your Time
Lockdown has not meant slowdown for some of us. Even though we are spending more time at home, some of us have been working extra hours. Parents of young children also know that kids are more than able to consume any “extra” time you might have. But many of us do have more discretionary time right now. We should carefully consider how we use that time.
If we don’t plan how we will use our time, we will probably end up defaulting to unproductive activities, like watching Netflix. I have already watched too much TV during this lockdown, but when this is over, I want to be able to say something better than I watched a lot of TV during the pandemic of 2020. We could read books we have been wanting to read (I would be happy to offer suggestions!). We can tackle projects we have been putting off around the home. But we probably won’t use our time well unless we plan how to use it well.
This is also a prime opportunity to think about how you want to spend your time differently when all this is over. Covid-19 has taken a lot of things from us, and some of those we may want to leave behind. We can ask right now: Did I really need to be a part of that club, do that weekly activity, or play golf as much as I was doing before (I know I am meddling here) We can recalibrate and reprioritize, this situation has given us a unique opportunity to push the reset button on our “normal lives”, “l not waste it!”
Invest In People
Lockdown presents us with incredible opportunities to invest in the relationships God has given us. This is true for those we are living with and those we can’t physically be with right now.
Parents and grandparents can invest in their kids and grandkids. Aunts and uncles can invest in their nieces and nephews. Your family members are likely more available for connection right now than they have been in a very long time - even if you don’t live with them. Kids are not going to school now. If you can’t see them in person, give them a call. I have enjoyed hearing how many of you parents are taking regular walks with your sons and daughters. You can make beautiful memories with them by giving them your love and attention.
Perhaps you are a parent who has wanted to lead your family in devotions but couldn’t figure out how to make it work with all your kid’s schedules. Be bold and give it shot. Sing with and pray with your kids. Read Scripture with them. Build a time of family worship into your schedule now.
Many people in our church don’t have kids in their homes. If this is you, ask yourself, who are some old friends you could connect with? Who could you reach out to, encourage and pray with? I know many of us dislike talking on the phone, but if we can get over that barrier, there are incredible opportunities for relational connection.
It encourages me so much when I hear that some small groups are meeting more often right now during the lockdown. By the way, if you are not in a small group right now, Donna and I would love to help make this happen! This is a great time to join a group. Just email me and let me know.
Be Honest With Yourself
If you are anything like me, you are probably feeling off balance and out of sync right now. Our lockdown presents us with some incredible opportunities, but our emotional resources are lower than normal. On some days, it is a challenge for me to get the essential things done, let alone do anything extra.
Left to myself, I will waste my lockdown. But we serve a God who has promised us that his power is made perfect in our weakness (2 Cor 12:9). He has also given us brothers and sisters, at this church, to come alongside us when we need help. We can accomplish together what we never could do alone. Let’s call each other often to check in and pray. Let’s fight the isolation with tenacious community. Only when we commit our weakness to God and commit to each other in community, will we use our lockdown well.