What crazy times we live in. Who would have thought that the American population would be asked to stay home? No work, no socializing, and definitely no going to church. It's like a fever dream of a situation.
At first, it was scary, but now it has become a way of life. News articles are telling us to binge more TV shows. Video game companies are giving away their stuff for free. Journalists who despised gaming for their addictive qualities are now urging Americans to play more as a way of coping. Do you really need to urge a gamer to play more games when the opportunity presents itself?
It feels like we signed up for a package deal during this quarantine that gives Americans the right and responsibility to lounge until further notice. With notable exceptions: The parents who wear a daycare and teacher hat full time and the emergency workers who are putting their health in danger. No one can refute that there are new pockets of time opening up.
As a Christian, I find myself puzzled. The God of the universe wants me to work less??? Does that make any sense? His greatest prescription for my life is removing me from diligent work at my vocation? In my deepest prayers, the Lord has never hinted at staying home and keeping to myself as a means of obedience. And if you asked me what America needs now more than ever, I would not say "more free time for leisure and play."
Thus we have a majority of Christian twenty and thirty-somethings using their time to finish their Minecraft universes or polish off the latest season of Criminal Minds. Introverts are rejoicing that God has demanded they stay away from their neighbors. I thought being away from my work's snack bar would be great for my health, but instead, my bacon and eggs intake has quadrupled.
There is nothing safe about being so close to all your comforts and being given a blank check to access them. I am starting to wonder if that is what Satan gets out of this time of trial and testing (besides the death and destruction). The Bible has clearly been on the side of the diligent and hardworking human being who uses their time wisely. God did not blow smoke telling us to observe ants and mimic their great work ethic.
I want to encourage everyone who reads this not to fall for the advertising that this time is license for "me time." I am reminded of the argument from Paul to the Corinthians.
"Everything is permissible for me, but not everything is beneficial. Everything is permissible for me, but I will not be mastered by anything." (1 Cor 6:12).
This is the rallying cry of the man who does not want to be bossed around by his desires. Just because I am near a fridge full of food doesn't mean I can raid it at any hour of the day. Just because video games and movies are cheaper than dirt that doesn't give me the right to consume them all. The world has always had a loose policy of "if you are hungry then eat whatever you can get your hands on." This policy has always made war with the Christian worldview. Accessibility has never been a green light for morality.
But you can't just tell a person to stop doing something "fun" for no reason. The brain always has a stronger argument that involves chemicals. I have scoured the Bible for a good reason not to devote my time to whatever makes my brain happy. I had not found one that resonated with me until I read about Jesus' trial in the desert. The devil tempted Jesus to turn stones into bread. Jesus was fasting up until forty days. He had every right to take some "me time." I wouldn't have waited for the devil to suggest it. But Jesus comes back with a pearl of wisdom that goes back to the very purpose of creation.
"Man is not meant to live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God." (Matt 4:3)
Let's unpack this. Jesus, who had the power to make bread miraculously appear and whose own body was begging for nourishment, refused the opportunity to eat. He defiantly tells his tempter, "I am not here to remind myself that nourishment comes from physical things, but to latch onto the truth that my real needs can be met by my father." Or to put it in simpler terms, "knowing God is knowing what fuels you." Jesus was testing this truth in the desert; a truth that goes back to the Garden of Eden when humanity was first created. Needless to say, he proved it in spades.
I see America in the same boat. This Coronavirus is a desert of trial and tempting. We are walking aimlessly, wondering where our nourishment will come from. Unfortunately, we have been trained to seek the easy stuff too fast. We are choosing candy over a four-course meal. I am praying that this temporal test ends with you clinging to God more. I pray that the world's prescription for filling loose time doesn't fool you. Above all, I am hoping that you see this journey not as detention from your normal life, but an opportunity to thrive spiritually.
Here is an example of a schedule I made prayerfully to help me take advantage of the time:
9:00 am- Read my Bible Plan (two chapters a day)
10:00-2:00 pm Ministry, family responsibilities and housework 2:00-3:00 pm Prayer and communication
3:00-4:00 pm Growth and learning (I am writing a book and learning how to be better at graphic designing)
4:00-5:00 pm Lectio Divina (reading devotionals and ancient works)
5:00-6:00 pm- working out and keeping healthy