God can and does use all things, even deadly pandemics like COVID-19, to bring about good things; beautiful things that give us renewed hope. Romans 8:28 states this truth clearly: And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose (New International Version).
I’ve been struck anew by this promise because this very difficult year has introduced some societal trends and changes that are long overdue. Some of these daily alterations are so beneficial to us that I’m labeling them blessings. These blessings are varied, but there’s a similar vein running through them—they all involve slowing down and resting with God.
We’re given a biblical command in Psalm 46:10 to do just that: “Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations; I will be exalted in the earth (NIV).”
Keeping this focus in mind, I’ve identified 7 blessings that have come from COVID-19:
1. A surge in available on-line worship services
During the spring lockdown, churches began to livestream their services, and despite many churches now opening in some capacity, many Sunday livestreams continue. Two great realities are springing from this trend:
- It makes worship more accessible.
Many dedicated churchgoers have for years missed the joy of participating in services because they suffer from health or mobility problems. Before livestreaming, these folks were often on prayer lists or recipients of home visits, but they weren’t able to participate in the Sunday service itself. Now, thanks to technology and increased motivation for churches to use it, they can. Another group who is benefiting from the new and improved accessibility of worship is the multitudes of people who are seeking God but uncomfortable with entering a church building to find him. They may be hesitant about mingling with people they perceive as judgmental and/or unwelcoming, and this surge of livestream church services offers them a non-threatening space to meet Jesus.
- It re-establishes the value of house churches
This streaming trend is also a perfect reminder for all of us that we don’t need a church building to worship our great God; he is with us wherever we are. We can livestream our church service or simply read Scripture and pray together, but it’s an important truth that we don’t need to be in a specific building to go to church. In fact, our earliest brothers and sisters gathered together in house churches. In Acts 1:13 we read about the disciples gathering in the “Upper Room” of a house, and in Romans 16 we learn the church met in the house of Priscilla and Aquila. Our younger children will especially benefit from this beautiful trend of house church because it’s occurring during their formative years—they will likely remember and retain it for their entire lifetimes.
When corporate worship becomes more viable again, it will be valued and treasured all the more, as we’ve been reminded of what a privilege it is to worship together.
2. A renewed parental awareness of their child’s education
Many more parents are becoming more involved in their children’s education—for obvious reasons. Homeschooling is surging, with some states reporting between a 21 percent and 75 percent increase. The National Home School Association received more than 3,400 requests for information on a single day in July, 2020, a drastic increase from their average of less than 10 a day before the pandemic. Even a few months of homeschooling can make an impact on both parents and students as they spend time together learning and creating. There is also evidence of homeschooled students scoring higher than their traditionally schooled counterparts on the SAT and ACT standardized tests.
Additionally, there’s now more room in the classroom for parents of public-school children. Many parents are listening to Zoom or Google classroom sessions with their homebound children and hearing, for the first time, what teachers are teaching in the classroom. With this knowledge, parents can join with teachers in helping their kids stay engaged and on track. Equally as important, parents can also hear if a core family value is being disparaged in the classroom and talk with their children about how to handle it. After all, this will happen their entire lives. Children should learn how to stand strong for what they believe in using civility and reason, not anger.
Any way you slice it, increased parental involvement in education is a good thing. COVID has demanded it, and we’ve had no choice but to step up to the plate.
3. A huge uptick in animal adoptions and fostering
People are spending more time at home and finding themselves with more time to love and care for things other than themselves. That’s why animal adoptions from shelters and humane societies are at the highest rate in recorded history. Dogs and cats of all ages are being sprung from cramped cages and placed with new owners who WORK AT HOME and have endless time to scratch the ears of new furry family members. Not only is this good for the animals, it’s also therapeutic for their new humans, as stroking and loving on our pets fulfills our human need for touch. It’s important to remember that studies have shown pet owners are less likely to suffer depression than those without pets. This surge in pet ownership is certainly a drop of pure beauty in the midst of an angst-ridden time.
4. A slower pace of life
No matter what stage of life we’re in, we’ve been forced to slow down due to lockdowns and other restrictions. Slowing down is often not something we do naturally, but it can be very beneficial to our marriages, family lives, and friendships. We are often so busy pivoting from one task to another that we seldom live in the moment—we’re simply not able to immerse ourselves in relationships or events fully because we’re planning our next move. This is not due to selfishness; rather, it’s the only way we believe we can stay on schedule and keep all our balls in the air.
I spent more daily time with my husband during the spring of 2020 than I had for years. We cooked together, walked together, watched Netflix together, and practiced our guitars together. Sometimes we fought. But we rebonded in a way that reminded us of the days we were newly married, without kids and totally enamored with each other. This past COVID spring brought back the joy of just being together without a plan.
5. A decrease in scheduled activities for the kiddos
When my kids were young, I would have given my eyeteeth for the privilege of simply skipping many of the kid activities that really didn’t matter. I was constantly in my car, ferrying my three children to t-ball, soccer, dance, baseball, basketball, acting class, piano lessons . . . the list is too long to count. The schedule was overwhelming, but at the time I did not see any other option. All of my children’s friends were in these activities and it seemed no one just played anymore—they did activities. So, even if you didn’t sign up your kids and instead kept them at home to free play, no one could join them. It was a quandary.
This over-scheduling came to an abrupt halt last spring, and I’ve noticed many more children outside in our neighborhood simply playing. They’re drawing with sidewalk chalk, playing catch, and digging in the dirt. This is a good thing. I believe we are doing our children a disservice when we thrust them into planned activities to the point of leaving them little unstructured time to play creatively. It’s a blessing to give kids the time to simply be kids.
6. A return to our kitchens
Many of us had not been cooking at home very often, and I believe two of the main reasons for our widespread kitchen disuse are discussed in blessings 4 & 5 above: sheer busyness of adults and overscheduled kids. The constant charging about of kids and their parents alike often discouraged meal preparation and planning, and the default was frequently takeout food of some genre. As we’ve slowed down our schedules this year we’ve found the time to plan, cook, and prepare our feasts, and even better, we’ve had time to sit down and eat them together.
Of course, there was another obvious fact why we were driven back to our kitchens: restaurants were literally shut down, so eating out as entertainment was halted instantly. I missed this at first, but quickly realized it had become more of a habit than a treat. When we started shopping and cooking together again we were reminded of two things: 1) how satisfying it is to create a wonderful culinary creation and 2) how much money we were saving by eating at home!=
7. A sudden increase in flexible work-at-home options
Twenty-four years ago I was an ambitious acquisitions editor who loved her job. When I became pregnant, I proposed keeping my full-time schedule with the option of working from home one day a week. My request was denied, and that was the end of my corporate publishing career.
I realize many companies have organically come a long way since that time, but even a year ago there was still a wide-spread insistence on the old-school model of employees physically needing to be in the same building in order to communicate. Obviously, technology has put an end to this need—we no longer need to be housed together in order to meet and work together. This past year has proved it.
2020 offered many people in the corporate world a respite from long commutes, expensive dry-cleaning bills, and wasted time by the coffee station. This work-at-home trend also offered many people a freedom they had never felt before as they could, for the first time, work from anywhere. I’m a case in point: Last winter I spent a full month with my daughter in sunny Florida because I could work from there. To my surprise my productivity actually increased in my new locale.
Yet, we should remember God created us as social beings who benefit from face-to-face interaction and brainstorming—it’s clear that in some situations 100% remote working conditions aren’t optimal. My hope is that the telecommuting lessons and successes learned this past year will allow for much more flexible workplaces in the future.
With the advent of several highly effective vaccines, I’m hopeful that the listing COVID-19 ship will be steadied and managed in 2021. And I’m praying that we remember the blessings we’ve encountered even during the worst months of 2020, for they all revolve around slowing down and thanking God for the gifts he’s given us: the beauty of worshiping God in our homes, the contentment of sitting down to a homemade dinner with our family, and the joys of creating mud pies with our children.
God truly does bring good from all things.