The coronavirus pandemic caught me by surprise. One day I was laughing with a table of ladies at a mom’s group and the next I was preparing to shelter at home with my family. The following week, three of my four children came home from school (the fourth is a toddler). In a matter of days, our existence as a family had radically changed.
Part of what made the whole thing so difficult was the relentless tidal wave of emotions. Disappointment over cancelled events. Fear over the health of loved ones and the strained economy. Grief over moments missed that could never be recaptured. Loneliness from being pulled away from friends and community.
My husband is a pastor, so I watched our church scramble (impressively), as many others did, to put together “Home Church” after large groups were prohibited from meeting to slow the spread of the virus. The church provided a worship set, sermon and discussion questions families could access online and encouraged church members to respond through social media.
Our young family struggled through the transition of being home together all the time, juggling work and school and interpersonal dynamics. Some days were amazing as we spent more time together as a family than we had in months. We took walks, watched movies, read books, rode bikes and made care packages for neighbors. Through online conferencing, we met digitally for Bible studies, small groups and extended family get-togethers.
Despite those positives, many days were disheartening. The children bickered, laundry piled up, dates for special events came and went and school was eventually cancelled for good. As the days and weeks wore on, we, as a society, seemed to settle into a collective grief over the many things we had lost to COVID-19—people we loved but also our way of life.
When life events shake us out of our sense of comfort and security, we usually view this as a trial. Scripture is clear that our trials have a purpose and don’t have
to steal our joy. James 1:2-3 puts it like this, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.”
At first glance, the events surrounding COVID-19 may appear to be your everyday, run-of-the-mill trial. But upon closer inspection, I believe it is something more. Beyond the inconvenience and discomfort of the crisis, God is at work. Believers have more time for prayer and reflection. Families have greater capacity to build relationships and reset priorities. Even churches are breaking down walls as powerful messages full of God’s truth go forth on a global platform. Neighbors seem more receptive to the gospel. Healthcare workers are joining together in prayer and worship. And missionaries report that people around the world are giving their lives to Christ in unprecedented numbers.
COVID-19 has certainly been a trial. Many people have experienced great loss. In times like these, it’s a great comfort that God is close to the brokenhearted and strengthens our faith through trials. But we can’t miss that God is also actively using this global crisis to accomplish his purposes. People are coming to know him. Families are growing closer. The gospel is flourishing and going forth. As we look to the future, may we never forget what God is showing us in this pandemic—and more importantly that he shows up in it.
Suzanne Hadley Gosselin is the co-author of “Grit and Grace: Devotions for Warrior Moms.” Her husband, Kevin, is a pastor at Bridge Bible Church, a Mennonite Brethren congregation in Bakersfield, California. They have four young children.