The words "COVID-19" or "Coronavirus" will be forever imprinted in our minds. They will conjure up multiple other words and memories of stress, discomfort, pain, and frustration. One word I've heard multiple times describing the COVID-19 era is "disruption."
The world and all its plans were halted or changed in what felt like a matter of moments. Homes became offices, schools, and quarantine sites. Schools became vacant, jobs were lost or changed, and families began to function in a completely different format. For some that meant being stuck in homes with people they try to avoid while for others COVID-19 meant being kept at distance from the people they care deeply about but love enough to stay away. Disruption.
Our lives have been disrupted by a microscopic organism. How could something so small cause such a massive disruption to our plans, our paychecks, our families, our lives? This disruption hit me hard last Monday. I am a first responder. Specifically, I work in law enforcement. For the past three years, however, I have worked a role safe from the streets. Ironically, one of my jobs is security planning for large scale events in my county. On Monday that changed when the needs of the community changed. I was informed I would, for the first time in three years, put my uniform back on, strap on my full duty belt, and sit behind the wheel of a patrol car to assist with the new needs that have arisen due to this virus. Overnight my perfect schedule, family friendly job, and way of life changed. This change was not for the better from my perspective.
My mind began to swirl with questions of "what if?" What if I catch it? What if I get hurt? What if??? The list went on and on. The what ifs were followed by the "why me?" questions. Why do I have to do this? Why don't others have to... I was stressed. I was scared. I was angry at the situation and truthfully wondered for the first 24 hours where God was in all of it. Then I was reminded of something I've learned through multiple other disruptions in my life.
Circumstances don't have to be good in order for them to be used for good.
Romans 8:28 promises us, "God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purposes." Please don't get me wrong. I was still angry and felt very disrupted. There is nothing about this virus or our current pandemonium causing pandemic that is good. This isn't good. I used to try and show why a bad situation was good even when deep inside I knew it was not. When I was very ill at 16 I tried to convince everyone it was "the best thing that ever happened to me" because of all the doors it opened. When I was told I couldn't have children of my own, I explained how that was so good because I could adopt an unwanted child. When my wife and I faced a horrible situation in our marriage, I attempted to make it "good" because it ended up helping us build the marriage we always desired.
None of that was true. Being a young person with a serious illness is hard. Being unable to create children of my own would have been devastating for me. What happened in my marriage was one of the most painful experiences of my life.
Which brings me to my two favorite words when life is anything but good. They are simple. They are powerful. They are used more than 30 times throughout the bible to make a powerful point. These two words are what make Romans 8:28 work.
The two words I choose to cling to in moments of despair are "But God."
Time and time again when horrible things happen scripture acknowledges the bad and follows it with "but God." Check this out:
"You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives." Genesis 5:20
"David stayed in the desert strongholds and in the hills of the Desert of Ziph. Day after day Saul searched for him, but God did not give David into his hands." 1 Samuel 23:14
"My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever." Psalm 73:26
"Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26
This is what I've clung to during my first week back in the streets during this time of frustration, uncertainty, and disruption. Life is not good right now but God is good. He has never stopped being good. He still cares for me, loves me and has a plan for me. This song by Chris Tomlin is a reminder of all that God still is:
Because God is still good even when life is bad I choose to find good within the bad. Romans promised he would work it together FOR MY GOOD if I love him. With that in mind, these are the questions I have asked myself since I was reminded:
What Can I learn from the Disruption?
There is something to be learned in every experience. This past week I learned new skills I didn't have the week before. I have learned new ways of communicating with family and friends. I've learned new tools from my job that I didn't know prior to this disruption. I've learned how to communicate more clearly with my children and wife so that we survive this disruption closer than we were before. We fill ill equipped to handle these impossible situations but God desires our trust as he leads and guides us and we learn new things each day.
How Can I Grow from the Disruption?
Someone wiser than me said, "We do not grow when things are easy. We grow when we are challenged." There are opportunities in this mess to grow as people. Being forced to change every part of our life forces us to transform and grow. Challenges like these will expose weakness in us, but God will be our strength and help us to grow as we ask Him and allow Him to do a transformative work in us.
Who Can I Serve in this Disruption?
One of the greatest goods that comes from any bad is how we use it for the good of others. Our normal course of life has been disrupted but God, if we allow, will use this detour to put people in our path that we wouldn't have seen otherwise. He will also give us a compassion for others we didn't have before because of what we are facing.
It was day two of my new job when an elderly woman who was taking a walk approached me at one of the parks on my beat. The park was closed. The woman was tired from her long walk and needed to find a drinking fountain. Prior to this pandemic, I would have simply explained the park was closed and she'd have to find water elsewhere. But God had something different in mind. I was perfectly positioned to serve her that day. I walked her across the street to a liquor store. We walked inside and found her the biggest bottle of water we could find and brought it to the counter. She asked, "Are you paying for that for me?" I responded "Absolutely!" Her words brought peace in the midst of this crisis. "No one has ever given me such a gift. I was so thirsty."
The clerk who was watching refused to let either of us pay. He smiled and told her it was free for her. I walked back to my post and watched her finish the entire bottle in less than five minutes. She kept looking over to wave with a big smile. What if that was the only reason my life was disrupted? What if my story had to change so her life could be impacted? Wouldn't it be worth it?
I was angry and frustrated by all this chaos, BUT GOD needed an elderly woman to be seen. And she was.
What we are facing is not good. I am still anxious and frustrated by our current circumstances. I'm not happy to be away from my wife and children. It's not good to have to visit with family on zoom rather than in our house. But God will use this microscopic bug to do a whole lot of good if we will learn, grow, and serve in the middle of it all.