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Ep. 234 The Unintended But Strangely Helpful Benefit of Coronavirus

Ep. 234 The Unintended But Strangely Helpful Benefit of Coronavirus

Shows Main Idea – In America, we have the luxury of creating disorders. It’s what happens after you become spoiled. You lose focus and drift toward the worse parts of human fallenness. Some folks talk about this perspective when they say idle hands are the devil’s workshop. Then the Lord permits a famine in the land, and folks refocus, reprioritize, and start changing. The Coronavirus scare of 2020 is doing this, as it’s causing a global recalibration of our souls.

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A worthless man plots evil, and his speech is like a scorching fire. A dishonest man spreads strife, and a whisperer separates close friends. A man of violence entices his neighbor and leads him in a way that is not good (Proverbs 16:27-29).

Another person said when this is over, we will have only two genders. I get it. People without a missional focus drift into nonsensical things that tearaway at family life and community vision. Perhaps a close analogy is a teenager who has all the world’s devices and limited responsibility. Without a vision, he perishes while wreaking havoc on his family (Proverbs 29:18).

And then he comes to an end of himself, sitting in the hog lot of life, thinking how good things used to be, but he got off track (Luke 15:17). He was spoiled. One of the best consequences of any suffering is refocusing. Strangely, or maybe ironically, personal loss and discomfort do come with benefits.

The process of benefiting from disappointment begins by taking inventory of what the pain is doing to you. For example, how many people came home to an empty house, only to realize that their spouse has left. Once they somewhat recover from the devastation, they make plans never to walk that road again. So, what are the steps to benefiting from tragedy? Here are five suggestions.

  1. Acknowledge that you need to change.
  2. Assess where you were wrong.
  3. Activate a plan to change.
  4. Acquire folks to keep you on track.
  5. Accept these things as God’s goodness in your life.

Acknowledge

One of the worsts responses to the Conornavirus scare is oblivion to how you can benefit from it. This virus is similar to all suffering in that one of the purposes of pain is reevaluation. This response is part of what it means to have a sound theology of suffering. Joseph informs of why to do this when he said that “God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20).

Rather than lashing out at God or someone else, you should ponder the pain, to learn how you have grown comfortable (and perhaps lazy) with how things were, and now the Lord is calling you to change.

Human nature tends to drift from God and others, with no desire to love Him and others more than ourselves. If left to our devices, we would become gods; it’s the “way of fallenness.” Though I do not have all the answers as to why the Lord permits suffering in our lives, I do know this one thing: pain can be clarifying if you let it.

Reflective Questions –

  • What are some ways you have become lazy, and the past few weeks, you’re seeing God’s mercy to you, and it’s time to change?
  • Maybe the issue for you is not the Coronavirus, but something else. Are you a spoiled married partner? Are you a spoiled teenager?
  • Have you taken your church for granted, and drifted into the “spectator’s section” rather than an active member?

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Assessment

There are many other areas to see where “spoilage” has seeped into your life. Though my list is not exhaustive, it vital that you create one, even if it’s only one area. Not to acknowledge God’s work in suffering is bad enough, but if you don’t assess how you can turn your disappointment to redemptive good is a complicating tragedy. Here are a few other ways some folks were brought to that place of self-reflection.

  • Time – A person going through a mid-life crisis starts to realize how he has not been redemptive enough with his time.
  • Money – When folks go through a financial loss, they recall all the wasteful spending.
  • Friendships – When a loved one dies, and there was unresolved conflict, it’s a double-mourning, as you grieve over their death and your refusal to reconcile.
  • Weight Gain – You receive the disappointing diagnosis, and reflectively think about all those New Year resolutions to lose weight.

As you make these assessments, please guard against wallowing in self-pity. Staring in the rearview mirror of “would’ve, should’ve, could’ve” is not good for your soul. There is something heinous about fixating on the past. If the Lord is giving you light to step into, the most productive thing you can do is learn from the past and move forward (1 John 1:7).

Reflective Questions –

  • What is your specific list of things you can change, even if it’s only one item?
  • How can you start transforming you today?

Activate

Now that you have acknowledged that life was good and you liked it in a few non-beneficial ways, and you have taken inventory by assessing some areas that need to change, it’s time for a plan. You want to be specific and practical, but not excessive or impractical.

Jesus gives us some useful advice in Luke 14:28, where He said we should count the cost before building a tower. You’re under reconstruction today, but before you “just throw something against the wall,” you want to ponder and pray about a path forward.

Whatever your area of change is, find a person who is doing well with what you want to fix about yourself. Ask them for some tips on what has worked for them. For example, if you’re changing your marriage, don’t ask the unhappy couple for advice. They will not help you. You want folks who have “field-tested” their opinions on themselves. I would not recommend a biblical counselor, either. Find someone who is doing it well, and pick their brains.

Reflective Questions –

  • What do you think you ought to do?
  • What have a couple of competent friends suggested to you?
  • How do you believe the Lord is leading you?
  • Will you write out a specific plan for change?

Acquire

Now it’s time to find a friend who will walk alongside you through the transformation. Perhaps it will be one of the folks who gave you advice. The key idea with this friend is that they are farther up the path of sanctification than you are, at least in the area you want to change. It would not be someone similar to you.

For example, a teenager who has wasted time on the computer, and has an addiction should not seek out a fellow-teen who does not have the life experience or wisdom to help you through the struggle. The primary reason for this is because you’re going to fail, and you need mature advice from a person who has “been there and done that.”

How many long-term plans have you executed flawlessly? Zero! None of us have made essential changes without disappointment and failure as part of the process. I don’t say this critically, but realistically, we’re not flawless people, and even our best plans will intersect with failures (Proverbs 16:9).

Reflective Questions –

  • Who will be your Paul as you build out your plan? (A lady will want a Paulette.) Every Timothy needs a Paul, so you want to spend time in prayer while doing sound “interviewing work” (not formally) to make sure you have the right person.
  • Is that person able to stick with you over the long-haul? You don’t want the disappointments of your failures, plus the wrong accountability partner who drops off after a few weeks.
  • How will you communicate? What will be the frequency?

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Accept

You will know if you’re doing this well if you have gratitude for what has happened to you and what the Lord is doing in you. If gratefulness is not part of your suffering, there is something wrong with you and your relationship with God. I’m not suggesting you will be grateful during or immediately after the crisis, but God’s sovereign care and direction of your life must draw praise out of you eventually.

The worst cases of this are the Christians who are a decade or more removed from their disappointment and are bitter, or worse, carry the mantel of a victim. I’m not questioning their “victim-ness” because something painful did happen to them, but at some point, the goodness of God has to transform all of our ashes into beauty (Isaiah 61:1-3).

You don’t want to wait until you see the fruit of your new plan manifesting before you begin practicing gratitude. In that case, you could be switching idols from a former good life to a current one. You can get to the place of praising God today, even if it feels somewhat artificial. I’m not suggesting that you be fake or rote in your praise, but you can begin asking God to give you a spirit of thanksgiving.

Even a prayer for joy is the evidence of it beginning to formulate in your heart, albeit it has not come yet. As the conception of a human being, life is there, though the child is not fully-formed. If all you have is the motive and mental desire to praise God, there is embryonic evidence of what will be fully-formed joy in the future (Psalm 30:4-5).

Reflective Questions –

  • Where are you with gratitude as you think about the Lord’s work in your life? Are you more grateful than despondent? If you’re not, it’s “okay.” The question is for assessment, not for condemnation. You need to acknowledge where you are currently.
  • Will you start a list of things you’re grateful for, even if it has nothing to do with what has happened to you? Your goal here is to cultivate a spirit of praise.
  • Will you start a list of the good things the Lord has taught you about your disappointment, which includes how you’re responding to Him?
  • Will you start a list of good things that have happened since your disappointment?
  • Finally, will you share with others the goodness of God through this experience? Let them rejoice with you, which will have a “bolstering effect” for your friends.

Call to Action

  1. Read or listen to Episode 233 on the Coronavirus.
  2. I have asked you many questions in this episode. Will you answer them, and share your responses with someone?
  3. Read Rick’s book, Change Me, which is one of the best for helping folks break habits, mature in Christ, and build relationally with each other.
  4. Study and share the scores of free equipping videos on our site.
  5. If you want to learn more from us, you may go to our Topical Index to find all of our articles. They are free. Please spend time studying the ones that interest you.
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