According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, a full-time working person in the United States spends about eight and a half hours working per day on weekdays alone. That means that the average full-time worker is spending approximately 42.5 hours per week working. All the while, these hours do not include the time in which people spend thinking about work, preparing for work, commuting, working overtime, and so on.
We are just months into 2020 and we find ourselves simply uncomfortable in the midst of the worldwide pandemic. What makes us so uneasy as the coronavirus spreads is the revelation that we do not live and breathe for ourselves. Rather, we are faced with the truth that we don’t own our time, our plans, our days, our money, or our things.
COVID-19 has affected the world as a whole, and might just have the ability to reshape American culture. Since the birth of the “American Dream” in 1931, Americans have been striving to earn, succeed and accomplish what we believe to be the ultimate way of living. Yet, since 1931, our path has led to despair, dissatisfaction, depression and exhaustion. Why? Because all of these things.
These things that so many have spent their entire lives trying to attain don’t fulfill nor sustain. The American Dream, while in part holds some good, also appeals to a life of constant striving in an attempt to live a comfortable life. Yet, we often grow the most through extreme levels of discomfort because it is our discomfort that proudly places on display what is living in our innermost being. In other words, our discomforted state often serves as an altar that holds the gods that we worship.
When we are comfortable we can freely give, be kind and love. Yet when we are uncomfortable, we see our selfishness, our pride, inner lack and fear, and in that place we make a choice to be transformed by a Savior or wander in despair.
While various forms of death and loss certainly exist during this unknown time, I see my God on a rescue mission toward his people. I see a God who loves and runs into darkness for the sake of relationship with those for whom he died to give life (John 3:16). A good friend once said, “everyone wants to follow Jesus until he starts moving.”
I think we can all agree that the effects of a worldwide pandemic include grief, loss, sorrow, confusion and several forms of isolation. Events and moments that call for celebration such as college graduations, high school proms and weddings have been canceled. The luxury of working to buy groceries, pay basic bills and seek medical attention is simply not available to all of us at this time. Pain, discomfort, sorrow, and tragedy are all aspects of our broken world, yet I know a heavenly father and friend who stops at nothing to bring joy alongside an inevitable suffering (John 16:33).
My hope is that humanity will see the need for a redeemer; because while many plans, hopes, desires and loved ones are dying, I know that our redeemer lives (Job 19:25) and will continue to live beyond this space and time.
My prayer is that we will make the choice to stop worshipping our gods that have been exposed through our discomfort. Our gods of selfishness, money, time, superficial comfort, stability and approval from others and we would start worshipping the Creator of Heaven and Earth (Psalm 146:6); the only one who has ever loved with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3). There is no other thing, person, time or experience that has done just that.
Pastor and author Peter Scazzero sheds light on this when he writes in “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality”: “Detachment is the great secret of interior peace. Along the way, in this journey with Christ, we get attached to (literally ‘nailed to’) behaviors, habits, things and people in an unhealthy way.”
He goes on to remind us that “God’s purpose for us is to have a loving union with him at the end of the journey. We joyfully detach from certain behaviors and activities for the purpose of a more intimate, loving attachment to God. We are to enjoy the world, for God’s creation is good. We appreciate nature, people, and all God’s gifts, along with his presence in creation—without being ensnared by them.”
In this moment in time, we mourn the losses, embrace the pain and face the truth of circumstance all while knowing that this life is not an end in itself. Our redeemer lives to transform, draw near and fulfill when the things we have attached ourselves to don’t. In that, he brings purpose through our pain.
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