The last week of shut-downs, cancellations, and other social distancing measures due to the COVID-19 virus have been dizzying and surreal for many folks. Surely the days ahead will bring more confusion, frustration, and opportunities for criticism. So it might be helpful to dwell on some of the positive aspects of the current situation. After all, we can be confident that, as Scripture says, God “works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will” (Eph. 1:11) and that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28). So, aside from the obvious end of “flattening the curve” in the spread of the COVID-19 virus, what good could possibly come from the radical social distancing mandates that we must now observe? Here are some possibilities.
One benefit regards our relationships. As we spend more time at home we will have more opportunities to connect with family members and close friends. Even in families where parents are committed to “quality time” with one another, the busyness of daily life can make such times hard to come by. With school shut-downs and fewer events to take us out of our homes, that means we will have a lot more such time—perhaps more such time than we ever wanted. But using this time to really reconnect with one another can be a blessing.
Another benefit is time to read! Like many folks, I am continually frustrated with my lack of time to read as much as I would like. Well, the social distancing policies are going to change that! I’ve already made a list of some books that I want to plow through which under ordinary circumstances I would have no time for until Summer break. Love it. I recommend that you do the same.
A third benefit is that the social distancing policies invite us, or perhaps even force us, to reassess our values and identify potential idols in our lives, especially as regards the emphasis we place on social engagements, shopping, entertainment, and personal freedom. We live in a hyperactive society, and all of the additional down time could serve as a valuable corrective. Blaise Pascal famously remarked that “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” Well, now we have a chance to develop this discipline of solitude, a rarity in American culture.
Finally, social distancing provides us an opportunity to contemplate our own mortality and finitude. For all of our power and ingenuity, human life nevertheless remains fragile and tenuous. Our astounding technological achievements can create a false sense of control and invulnerability. The COVID-19 virus shatters that illusion. To consider how something so small that it is invisible to the naked eye is crippling our technologically advanced civilization is quite humbling. Such a global lesson in humility is immensely valuable, reinforcing the biblical perspective that “the Lord foils the plans of the nations; he thwarts the purposes of the peoples” (Ps. 33:10).