The Pandemic in Hindsight: The Benefits of COVID-19 (Part 1)

By Lane Noble

I walked out of my bedroom and saw that my mother had just come home. She was still in her work clothes and was clearly worn out from teaching first graders all day.

“Well,” she said, “we’re out of school for the next three weeks.”

“Really?” I said in a surprised tone. “Why?”

“That virus. The Goveror is shutting all of the schools down for two weeks, and then we have Spring Break. So I’ve got to get packets ready for them.”

“Well…alright then.”

A couple of weeks later I get the call from my mother, who was staying with my grandfather in the hospital. “Don’t come up here. They aren’t allowing visitors because of the disease. They aren’t letting people in unless you have to come in.”

“Wow! Okay.” I said.

Another day I was on my way to a job interview. I stopped at a fast food joint to pick up something to drink and a box of fries (I was low on blood sugar) and I got into a conversation with the cashier.

“The Governor is making all of the restaurants close at five today.”

“Are you serious?” I exclaimed. “That’s crazy!”

Eventually I received a call from my pastor saying that we would no longer gather for service for the time being to slow the spread of the coronavirus. I was shocked. I felt like I was living in one of those apocalyptic thrillers. Except that I was fully immersed in it.

I remember being shocked the first time I went to the store for the first time since a pandemic alert had been issued. The silence was somber. The elephant in the room was that being here was dangerous. There were police officers surveying the aisles. Everyone had just started wearing masks. There was tape on the floors reminding everyone to social distance. There was hand sanitizer and there were signs dispersed with a drawing of a man wearing a mask, reminding everyone to wear a face covering. There was also a person standing out front, taking note of the amount of people coming in and going out so as not to have too many people in the store.

The once customary handshake had become a public health threat. COVID-19 notices posted on every single website. A flood of emails coming in from every company detailing how they were going to respond to the coronavirus pandemic. This was definitely becoming the defining issue of the early twenty-twenties. At this point, the fact is that it’s officially been a year since the world was changed by the pandemic, and we would do well to reflect on the past year.

The obvious fact of course is that many have suffered at the hands of this pandemic. Many have died from the illness itself. Many have lost their jobs, and many have suffered from serious anxiety and depression. The suicide hotlines have blown up over the past year. The destruction that COVID-19 has wrought should not go unnoticed, and Christians should be well aware of the suffering so that we can pray for those involved and serve them. However, in this article, and two more articles to come, I would like to examine the potentially unnoticed benefits of COVID-19. I actually think that more good came out of COVID-19 than not, which is why I’m dedicating three articles to this topic. In this one, we will examine three:

1. Taking Away What We Never Knew We Needed

The world today is a desperately and severely anxious place. I’m often surprised nowadays when someone tells me that they don’t wrestle with an anxiety disorder or aren’t constantly apprehensive. The line at the door of the therapist’s office is miles long now, and we’ve completely drugged ourselves up with anxiety pills. Millions of dollars are being stuffed into the pockets of meditation app designers who want to help others reduce anxiety through mindfulness meditation.

There is no shortage of explanations for this rise in anxiety over the years: chemical imbalance, technology, social/political unrest, dietary issues. All of these obviously play a part in the problem, but there’s one fundamental thing that we had almost completely abandoned before the pandemic and almost completely lost by the time it arrived: community.

It turns out that we got just enough community to stay alive but not nearly enough to stay sane. Social media and other communications technologies gave us the illusion that we were actually connected. Yet we knew something was wrong. It was just that no one wanted to fix it.

What little community that we had was taken away from us with the arrival of COVID-19. Yet, we got more of it. When we realized what we were missing, we went for it. Though it was mostly through FaceTime, we spent more time with friends. We spent more time with family. Hopefully, with the end of this pandemic we won’t take this gift from God for granted to the extent that we were before it.

2. Learning the Value of Slowing Down

When the lockdown started, for many of us, our schedules shrunk. Hours that would have normally been spent doing things miles away from our homes were now freed up to be filled with other things.

Now, from a biblical worldview we know that idleness is not a good thing. We recognize that there is a certain danger from having too much time on our hands. However, our society was moving at a breakneck speed prior to the pandemic. To an extent, we still were when the pandemic began. The speed of the news and cultural transformation writ large did not help matters. However, we did slow down during the pandemic, and there is value in that.

I actually learned some new ways to relax and detox. One such way was mowing the lawn. Now, I still live with my parents, and mowing was something that I had done periodically, but was not primarily responsible for. However, I ended up mowing not just my own lawn but the lawns of my neighbors and the lawns of other folks who were unable to do so. I came to find that it was actually relaxing. I loved turning on a podcast or an audiobook and then doing something productive, with very few other deadlines on my shoulders.

I also took up meditation. Again, something that I had done before, but didn’t really realize the value of until then. I used two apps called Soulspace and Calm. One of those apps focuses specifically on mindfulness and the other is a Christian meditation app that focuses on slowing down and filling your mind with truth. I found both apps so helpful.

I know many folks who have improved themselves and grown in wisdom tremendously because they’ve been reading and praying more during lockdown. Others have replaced their high stress lives with lower stress ones in general. In this sense, the pandemic was healthy. It was like a vacation from the high intensity of our previous world.

3. The World Unmasked Its Ugly Face…and That’s a Good Thing

Christians knew, intellectually, that we live in a Genesis three world. A world that is tainted by sin. God’s perfect design is no longer perfect, but because of God’s wonderful plan of redemption creation will eventually be restored.

Christians, western Christians in particular, have always had a false sense of security in this world. Yeah we live in a sin cursed world but we don’t want to be too negative. Life is short. We need to enjoy life…

I believe that the pandemic has ripped apart the above piece of garbage. What the pandemic, and really the year 2020 has taught us in general, is that life is short and life is fragile. It could be taken away from us at any moment. It could be taken away by COVID-19. It could be taken away by radical protesters and/or rioters. It could be taken away by a car crash or a murder hornet. This world is dangerous because it has been ruined by sin, which is one of the reasons that Jesus told us not to get too comfortable here. The kinds of events that took place over the last eyar aren’t knew. Humans haven’t been as “enlightened” as we thought they’ve been. Humans are evil at heart. They’re barbaric. They search for blood by their very nature. While by God’s grace we can do good things, even those who aren’t Christians, apart from God we are opposed to all things good. We are messed up. The year 2020 is the normal state of things. This is how the world really is, and if we become too comfortable in it then rest assured, we will go down with it when God judges the world.

Thankfully, we have the good news of Jesus that things don’t have to stay this way for us, and we can take this good news to the rest of the world. We have the only message that will eventually bring about the end of all suffering for a person. If we have such a message, then, in the words of atheist Penn Jillette: “how much do you have to hate somebody not to proselytize?”1

Like I said before, we would do well to reflect on the past year. There are so many valuable lessons that we can learn from it. Hopefully, the church will grow as a result.

Notes:

  1. Taylor, Justin “How Much Do You Have to Hate Somebody to Not Proseletyze” The Gospel Coalition https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justin-taylor/how-much-do-you-have-to-hate-somebody-to-not-proselytize/ Accessed March 10, 2021


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