I keep hearing this phrase: “I can’t wait for things to get back to normal.”
I hear this phrase in my head and from countless others as I talk to them over the phone, through Facetime, or from six feet away. I want things to go back normal for sure.
I miss high fives, handshakes, and bro-hugs. I miss sitting in a restaurant with my family or friend and talking over some delicious food.
I miss my kids being able to play with their friends and spend time with extended family.
I miss so many things that I never thought I would miss.
However, I can’t seem to shake this nagging thought. Maybe, just maybe, this COVID-19 season is not just a few-month hiatus from the normal that we love and so dearly miss, but actually a shift to something different. Something greater.
As a follower of Jesus, I have been profoundly changed by His resurrection. Not only do I believe in His resurrection and place my hope in it, I have seen its power bring dead things back to life in my own life. I have seen brokenness and dead relationships renewed and changed.
I have seen old habits and addictions that have controlled me now have no power. I have seen things that brought me shame and guilt turned into platforms for God’s love and forgiveness.
God is in the business of resurrection, it’s the Good News of the gospel and the things that angels marvel over. The interesting thing about resurrection, is that something has to be broken, beyond repair, or even dead in order to be brought back to life into something new.
The Apostle Paul talks about suffering with a completely different perspective in his letter to the Philippians. “I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!” Phillipians 3:10-11
After you read that you may think, “Wow, Paul is messed up in the head. Why would he welcome suffering?”
It’s a valid thought, however, I believe there is profound wisdom for us to gain from Paul’s perspective. Without suffering, there can ultimately be no resurrection. I don’t think Paul loved the pain of suffering, but I believe that he was able to convince his mind to look outside of his present circumstances to see that there was something bigger, something greater waiting for him.
In one of his other letters, Paul told the people of Rome to take joy in their suffering. Not because it feels good, but because of what it can produce in our lives! We often don’t connect the dots between our present pain and the growth that happens from it.
However, let’s think about it this way… In pain and suffering we can become stronger (think of working out), we can develop endurance (think of running), we can become wiser, we can become more thankful, we can re-evaluate our priorities, and we can grow into better versions of ourselves.
So perhaps something bigger is happening in our lives during this season. A chance for us to become better people. People more in line with how God has designed us and wired us.
Perhaps what you are experiencing now is preparing you for something that will require the endurance, the ingenuity, the shift in focus and priorities, and the strength that you developed in this season.
Lord willing, when we get out of this COVID-19 season, may we emerge better people, finer people, more compassionate people, even dare I say, more Christ-like.
Through Jesus’ suffering He gave life to anyone willing to receive it and we can follow in His footsteps which brings life and light to others during and after this is over.
Maybe the old normal is gone forever, and we can let it remain that way. Maybe the resurrection we will see out of the new normal will be brighter because we were changed by it for the better.
I know that many people have been affected by this virus in terrible ways: the loss of jobs, being hospitalized alone, isolation, missing loved ones, or even the loss of a loved one. May we give ourselves and others grace and compassion through this uncharted territory.
This is undoubtedly a terrible season, but perhaps instead of longing for normal to come back, let us shift our thinking to what can be produced in our lives.
My hope is that we will emerge changed for the better and I believe that resurrection is possible, do you?
Just a few thoughts and a different way of looking at all this.
Daniel Yelverton is Discipleship Pastor at Elevation Community Church in Blanchester.