Seven weeks ago, when we started lockdown here in New Zealand, life as we had come to know it ceased to exist. The New Zealand government announced a “Level 4 Lockdown” on a Monday afternoon which was to go into effect at midnight on Wednesday. This meant we would not be allowed to leave our house except to buy groceries (1 family member at a time) and for daily exercise in our immediate neighborhood. Even online shopping would be limited to essential items like medicine and heaters. Police checkpoints were established to stop vehicles and ensure that people were complying with the new social regulations. I noticed a sense of anxiety creeping in as I wondered what this new reality was going to look like for our family.
So, with two days to prepare for something that none of us had experienced before, I found myself on the longest shopping trip of my life. Normally not the shopper in the family, I ventured into the Warehouse (NZ’s version of a Target in the States) to pick up a few items before they shut their doors for the foreseeable future. But instead of getting in and out as quickly as I possibly could, I ended up wandering around each section of the store assessing what I really “needed” for the upcoming month of isolation. I ordinarily detest the act of shopping, but now I was suddenly intrigued to see what was available, what was flying off the shelves and what others were buying in preparation to shelter in place with their families for at least 4 weeks.
I ended up buying a tent (in case we wanted to camp together somewhere on our property), a few tools for home improvement projects, notepads, pens, and some sweatpants (since I didn’t have any). Yes, I know, the perfect combination for a month at home. As I stood in the socially distanced line to check out, 6 feet behind the person in front of me, I began to sense that the world was heading into territory that had not yet been seen, at least in my lifetime.
As lockdown officially began, we watched with the rest of the world as the Covid virus continued its aggressive global spread and the reality began to dawn on everyone that the entire planet had just transformed before our very eyes. Borders started closing, travel and the economy came to a screeching halt and the US Embassy announced that its citizens should come back immediately, or risk being stuck where they were for at least 6 months. Our family was only 10 months into the transition to a new country and we had just begun to feel settled in our life here. Because of Covid-19, we had already cancelled a much-anticipated trip back to the States to visit family and friends in South Carolina and Texas. Now the game had completely changed. We didn’t know when we would be able to venture beyond our own neighborhood, let alone travel internationally to see our loved ones.
Questions started to creep into the back of my mind. Did God really call us here? Would He have taken us away from the support system of our families and a deep community of friends during a time like this? What was our purpose in this still largely unfamiliar place? How would our kids cope with being pulled out of school just as they had begun to form friendships and become acquainted with their new routine? What was this going to mean for my business and income? These doubts and more all swept through our minds as we imagined how Covid-19 would change our lives.
Outside of physical preparations, the very concept of lockdown itself brought front and center the deeper questions around the proper role of government in a society and where we all believe its boundaries ought to be. Are these kinds of government mandated societal restrictions OK in order to protect the vulnerable or should the burden of responsibility fall to individuals, allowing them to remain free to work and take the risks that they are comfortable taking? Questions like these now dominate our minds, conversations, and social media streams.
What is God saying during this season?
But beneath the many obvious physical concerns consuming the world, I find myself most interested in what is being exposed in our hearts during this unique time? What is God saying to the body of Christ right now? Do we even care what God is doing, or are we just waiting for things to go back to normal so that we can return to the often-frenetic pace of our comfort zones? Most importantly, what is God saying to you and me personally right now and are we listening?
For our family, this lockdown has been an incredible time of refinement. We live in the mountains on rural farmland, so even though there is a small town a few minutes away it feels like we have had even more isolation than those who live in suburbs or cities. We literally have not seen anyone outside of our family except for when one of us goes to the grocery store once a week. Despite our isolation and in the midst of the new rhythms of life, we have found it to be a rich time spiritually. God has revealed Himself to us and spotlighted areas where we have become self-reliant instead of Spirit reliant and has given us the perfect opportunity to reset our priorities and start forming new habits.
Here are some key areas where God is speaking to us right now:
- A lot of our behavior is performance driven versus Spirit led. We desire to flip that, but it is hard to do. Are we hearing from God? Are we in a relationship where we are actually asking Him what he wants versus just working through our own plans and asking him to bless them?
- We aren’t interested in just making our kids “good.” Instead, we want them to be disciples of Jesus. These are two very different things.
- Our relationship as husband and wife: Are we investing enough in each other? Are we communicating well? Are we really willing to work through hard things together in order to build a deeper connection, or are there areas in which we are settling for just maintaining a surface level partnership?
- God wants us to reset our priorities. This shows up in how we invest time. God first, family second, business/finances next. We know this is the right order, but do our schedules actually align with the things that we claim are most important to us?
- Creativity: God has given us new creative ideas to start pursuing and we’ve seen Him work through those as we have taken action.
How Does God want to use challenge and hardship in our lives?
How about you? Are you spending time daily with God so that you can hear what He has to say? What is He pointing out to you during this time? What areas of your life does He want to refine? Over and over in the Bible, God talks about how believers experience hardships so that they can be refined for their own good!
Hebrews chapter 12 speaks about discipline and refinement from God and verse 7 says to “Endure hardship as discipline.”
In Deuteronomy Chapter 8, God tells the Israelites that the reason He led them through the desert for 40 years was so that He could humble and test them, to know what was in their hearts, so that they would know that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God. The Israelites went through great challenges and countless difficult circumstances, so that they would grow in their understanding and relationship with God and learn how to hear from Him!
As followers of Christ, I believe we have the exact same opportunity from God right now in the middle of hardship. Not to just survive and make it through until things get back to “normal,” but to thrive as we hear from and grow with God so that we can increase our impact and influence on those around us and transform the culture we live in.
God is not surprised by Covid-19, nor is it beyond His control. God is allowing it and using it, for those who are willing to listen to Him. He wants to reset, restructure and refine our lives (for our own good) so that the Kingdom will continue to advance and many more will come to faith as a result of these specific circumstances.
Over the coming weeks we will share more stories about how God is speaking to us in the areas mentioned above and how that is playing out in our lives. We pray for you to seek Him in deeper and new ways in this environment so that you will find more and more of Him and the spiritual riches that abound in His presence!