I peer out the window of my newly claimed home office (thank God we cleaned out this room just a few weeks ago; I will be spending lots of time here in the upcoming months) at the sound of bikes passing in the driveway. A family, 3 kids and their parents, bustle by. Shortly after they pass from view, another family walks by – baby stroller and dog in tow. Next, a runner. All new faces to me. This pattern continues for the rest of the day until work is done and I head out myself into the unseasonably warm afternoon.
The news that my company is suspending all new business for 2 weeks had just been announced the day prior to my office window observations. Pennsylvania is expected to announce in the upcoming day or two the 2 week closing of all non-essential businesses and issue a stay-at-home order. COVID-19 is here.
Both of these decisions I had been dreading for a week or so. I wanted to believe that the hype surrounding this rapidly spreading disease was just that: hype. Overblown. Unnecessary. I was wrong. We were at the precipice of what would turn out to be an unprecedented outbreak, unimaginable economic impact and hours upon endless hours of staring at these 4 walls. But that day, as I walked around my neighborhood, I sensed something abuzz. People were outside. People were speaking with neighbors. People were home, at 4:30 on a Tuesday, playing with their kids.
The next morning I officially started my work from home schedule. Since I no longer had to fight the hour plus commute through the heart of the city to get to my office, I had new found time in the morning with my family. My wife saw this as an opportunity to implement a new morning tradition; family devotion out of some children’s prayer and scripture books.
Fast forward one week. The world is one week further into the pandemic. The number of cases are skyrocketing. The stay at home orders and business closings are extended indefinitely, as is my company’s suspension of work. My son’s school is done for the year, and it’s not even April. The skepticism I once held about the gravity of the situation has been shattered. COVID-19 is here, and it ain’t going anywhere.
We settle into the couch for our morning devotional. Today, I’m reading. It’s the story of Joseph. The book lays out the story in a way a child would understand and my son is lapping it up. At the end, I read the quote they leave for the kids to remember – “God can use the hard parts of your story for your good and His glory.” As I read the words, the truth of this simple phrase wash over me. God really can use the hard parts of our story for our good and His glory. I wouldn’t be sitting here, reading this story, watching my son learn (and re-learning along with him) simple Biblical truths if we weren’t all facing this pandemic; truly a hard part of all our stories. Those families I’ve been seeing walking past my window for a week now, enjoying family time, breathing in the fresh air, wouldn’t be able to have those moments if not for this. This reinforces a belief I’ve long held and the Lord has proven out time and time again in His word and in my life; He can spin beauty out of ashes
Now, I know that it is far easier for someone in my situation – still employed, myself and my family still healthy and low risk, a house I enjoy being inside for weeks on end – to say and to believe during this pandemic than it is for others – those who are no longer employed, those who are personally sick or at risk or have family that is, those who are struggling with anxiety or loneliness being trapped in their house – to hear and live. I have been minimally affected by this and I know there are those whose lives will not be the same after this is all over. For those people, I pray every day that the Lord makes this truth real to them.
Reading that story to Silas drove me back to Genesis to read the chapters there. And that led me to the anchor verse for me during this time: Genesis 50:20 – “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good, to accomplish now what is now being done…” Who, or whatever, the “You” in that story represents – brothers that sold you into slavery, a boss who just laid you off, a virus that is wreaking havoc on your immune system – God is more powerful. I can’t claim to know what good that He is intending with any of this, but I know that it’s coming, even if it’s in the new life to come.