Joyfulness in the time of COVID-19

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COVID-19 has completely flipped our lives upside down. Easy conveniences and little freedoms we’ve always enjoyed, like being able to stop at a grocery store without fear or meeting a friend for coffee at a bustling café, have suddenly been stripped away from us. So many of us have had to make incredible, life-altering adjustments in the span of only a few short weeks. 

Some of us are trying to work from home, juggling homelife and work through patchwork systems and managing the best we can. Some have been abruptly laid off and their family’s future cast into uncertainty. Others working in an "essential service” are suddenly facing a more demanding and dangerous job than ever. Doctors and grocery store clerks alike are being asked to risk their lives to keep our society functioning. 

It’s a time of stress and uncertainty that has many of us reeling. The only thing we have personal control over is how we react to this challenge. Will we face this crisis with anxiety and fear, or use it as an opportunity to spread joyfulness and gratitude? Will we allow ourselves to wallow in bitterness, or put our faith in God and remember that He is in control and is always in command of His divine plan? COVID-19, quarantine, and social distancing are all tests of our faith. We need to rise to the challenge.

Keep others in the forefront of your thoughts

Selfishness has been a major story of this virus. From price-gougers cleaning out stores to re-sell hand sanitizer and toilet paper on the street, to non-essential businesses threatening their employees to still come in despite a close order, to foolish spring breakers gathering at beaches and bars and bringing the virus home. A lot of people have used this moment of crisis to show us exactly how small and selfish they can be. 

A major way we can be a force for good in this crisis is by countering this selfishness. Look for ways that you can help others, especially those at a higher degree of risk than you, or for whom isolation cuts even deeper than most. If you have elderly neighbours, leave them a note in their mailbox with your number and an invitation to call if they need anything or just want to chat. If you need to make a grocery run, check in with your family and friends if they need anything you can pick up at the same time. Limit exposure by making the most of each grocery trip while reaffirming the bonds and connections you have in your life.

In this time of isolation, it’s the little things that matter. Being able to lend a hand, or even just an understanding ear, to a friend or neighbour in need can go a long way. This is a real "living our values” moment for us Christians. What kind of people are we when things look bleak? Do we turn inward and cold, only making sure we’re protected? Or do we do what we can to continue to spread joy and compassion the way Jesus would? Coming together in even small ways and making sure to care for our neighbours during this trying time will make us all feel a little less lonely and anxious.  

Connect in new ways

Being stuck at home doesn’t mean we have to give up on fellowship, but it does mean we need to be a little more creative. If you’re not able to get to Church, bring the word into your home by joining in on a service stream. Get together with your prayer group over Skype or a similar program. Text your friends and family on a regular basis. Just because you can’t get together doesn’t mean you can’t stay in touch and be an active presence in their lives. The worst thing we can do in a time like this is give into despair and let the relationships that matter in our lives wither on the vine. 

This is also a great time to nurture the relationships you have inside the home. Prolonged close quarters with the entire family can cause some friction (as any home with teenagers are likely already finding out) but it can also present new opportunities. If you’re working from home, this is a great chance to spend lunch with your spouse. If the kids are stuck inside all day and bored, this is a great time to dust off the old boardgames, or play catch in the backyard, or start some home project they’d be interested in. Make the most of this extra family time, it might just be a gift in disguise.

Practice gratitude

One thing that COVID-19 can teach us is perspective. Even just these past short weeks have been cause enough for many of us to step back and examine just how lucky we are in life. Grocery shopping is often thought of as a chore, another item on the to-do list after work. But now, with limited availability, empty shelves, and worrying gloves and facemasks everywhere, it’s hard not to recognize how much of a luxury a normal trip to the grocery store really is.  Same with ordering from a restaurant or going into work normally and without fear of contamination. These are small things that we usually take for granted that suddenly seem very important in their absence. 

We can certainly mourn for these lost freedoms, but we should also use it as a chance to take stock. To look at the rest of our lives and appreciate what else we have. These are uncertain and, yes, frightening times, but we still have so much. We are so blessed to live in a developed first world country that has a social system that can respond to this crisis. We are blessed to have ways to connect with each other even when we need to keep our physical distance. And above all, we are blessed that we can always turn our worries over to the Lord and place our faith in Him, knowing that all things, even pandemics, happen for a reason. 

This is a time to reflect and grow. This is a chance to re-prioritize, to fully recognize what is important to you and your family. Don’t waste it being bitter about the new strains on our lives. Use it to be grateful for what we had before, what we have now, and the new clarity to what we should be doing with our lives.

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