I can only imagine that life’s tragedies and trials bring out both the best and worst in people. Stressful situations cause some to rise up to solve problems, while others sink down in despair. Some get courageous and heroic, while others get discouraged, angry, or afraid. When push comes to shove, we can only hope we’ll prove to be the former.
But the problem with this COVID thing is there’s not one momentous climax of difficulty for us to rise up and handle well. Instead it’s month upon month upon month of inconveniences, concerns, disruptions, annoyances, and disagreements (with those who see the situation differently than we do). And we have no idea how long all of this will last.
So reactionary courage won’t get us through this one. Momentary heroism isn’t going to help much. If we want this trial to bring out the best in us we are going to need much more than that. Because long drawn out seasons of difficulty (even mediocre difficulties) have a way of wearing us down, bringing out our impatience and irritability, causing us to treat others with less grace and kindness, and all around making us less godly. Essentially, if we are not careful, this trial can bring out the worst in us.
Where “The Worst” Comes From
When we are not responding well to life it’s tempting to blame our reactions on the circumstances. Which makes as much sense as my child saying, “It’s not my fault, she’s being mean, that’s why I hit her!” But as all parents know, each child is responsible for their own actions, no matter the provocation. No one makes you sin. No one except yourself. And so it is with us older folk. We may feel quite provoked these days — someone or something somewhere will inevitably frustrate us, but it’s never justification for our less-than-godly reactions. We have to realize that we respond sinfully because we have sin in our hearts and when we feel weak, we let it all out.
In other words, when we respond poorly to the situation, we are seeing the worst that is already in us.
Which is a bit humbling to think about. When we complain, when we speak bad about others, when we get anxious and worried, when we are irritable and feisty, when we get all divisive, it’s flowing from what’s in our hearts. Without a doubt, it’s the desires within us (James 4:1) that make us react as we do.
So perhaps the first thing this long drawn out trial should do is open our eyes to the sin within us. We might have thought we were quite mature and patient and gracious and flexible — and then, we met Corona. But perhaps this whole thing can become a blessing in disguise (at least in the sense of sanctification)…
Sanctification on Overdrive
No one likes being put through the refining fire. But in hindsight don’t you like it? Think back to a trial in your Christian life — one where the sting of pain has worn off. Though that time was hard, wasn’t it good for you? Though maybe you wouldn’t choose that trial, didn’t it turn into a blessing in disguise? If you let the trial do its job, I’m confident you’d answer in the affirmative.
Trials have a specific role in our life, and it’s crucial we maximize their value. In the words of James, we need to…
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 2:1-4
We need to respond to our trial today, to this never-ending Corona trial, with steadfastness. Meaning, we need to continue to bear up under any of the hard circumstances that come our way. And as we do, we will get sanctified. We will become more of who God wants us to be. God will complete the holiness he is working out in our lives. Sanctification can go on overdrive during a trial. It just comes down to being steadfast — which ultimately comes down to making the next right choice when you’re tempted to respond wrong to the trying circumstances. And then asking God’s help to make the next right choice after that.
Instead of the worst, we can allow this season to bring out the best in us….not because we have all these amazing godly qualities stored up in our sinful hearts, but because God wants to substantially grow them within us, and a trial is often the way he goes about that.
So who knows how we Christians could come out of this COVID saga; but it’s very possible we could leave this virus behind with more patience, grace, kindness, flexibility, self-control…perhaps more “perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
Don’t let COVID bring out the worst in you, make certain it brings out the best.