By Brenda Jo Wong

Disrupted Yet Passionate—Loving God & Others in a New Season

What a crazy time! COVID-19 has dramatically disrupted our lives and world! Every day we receive unexpected news. Trips, schools, church services, and sporting events being closed or canceled. Panic buying, empty shelves, and countless people fearing unemployment, economic losses, and instability. Increasing anxiety, isolation, sickness, and death. Health providers risking their lives working nonstop to serve those in need.

When this first began, I felt sad about the affected countries as well as pain and anger with the growing racism towards Asians. Then I experienced things locally. We had to cancel our annual InterVarsity Hawai`i Spring Break Project. My disappointment grew as face-to-face campus ministry suddenly transitioned to digital ministry. Student athletes saw promising seasons cut, parents scrambled to find childcare, and friends overseas rushed home. My sister and her husband could no longer visit my mom in her care home. Though I was extremely thankful that a close uncle’s celebration of life was not canceled, a wedding I was invited to was celebrated only by their families. More and more states are sheltering in place, including Hawai`i, who is also asking tourists not to come.

Our lives are being disrupted. We are forced to let go of things that have felt both normal and essential. Things that brought us comfort, joy, security, and safety are missing. And we fear catching the virus, being a carrier to those we love, and losing loved ones.

In all this, God invites us to come to him, to be passionate about our love for him and others. These two great commandments will give us our deepest satisfaction and joy. Here are some specific ways we can live this out right now.

1. Share Your Heart with God

Be honest with God and share your sadness and disappointments. He created you and intimately knows you. What has changed and is changing for you? What are you missing and hurting over? What is hard for you? Grieve and lament with God about what you’ve lost.

As our fears and anxieties grow, the Apostle Paul gives us guidance in Philippians 4:6–7. Share what is on your heart with God. As you do this, what does he want to give back to you?

2. Let God Satisfy You

God created us to find our joy and satisfaction in him. The Apostle Peter writes in 1 Peter 1:7–8 about how God refines our faith and love for him. He will give us an inexpressible joy even through these fiery trials. As we experience difficult losses, how might God want to fill that gap for us?

How are you spending your time right now? I know it’s challenging to focus more on God than all that’s happening with the virus and other concerns in our lives. But it’s important to intentionally find time alone in God’s presence where we can enter into his peace and hope. Be inspired by David’s desperate longing for God in Psalm 63:15. Pray, journal, sing, and take time for stillness. Go for a walk to enjoy the Lord’s creation and experience his companionship, peace, and joy.

Listen to worship music and soak in God’s presence. Take time to receive from Scripture and the Spirit. What is God saying to you? What does he want to give you? Take time to receive from God individually and in community.

3. Love Your Families and Friends

Though our patterns of connecting with people are different right now, we can still passionately love others. This is a great opportunity to grow in loving those you live with, your neighbors, and your community. How does God want to care for those around you? As we are less busy and active, I am thankful, praying, and seeking to share God’s love and his Word with my neighbors and those who I might meet on essential errands.

Even if our relational patterns change, we can still communicate deeply with others. Because I do most of my spiritual direction and formation digitally, I was surprised to discover that we could still connect deeply, pray, and receive from God in a powerful way. Ask him for real connections with others.

Face-to-face contact is not the only way for us to love others. I am part of many groups that encourage and pray for one another via text. I have also experienced many online fellowship and prayer times with InterVarsity and now with people from my church, including my church’s extended prayer meeting and team inner healing ministry. After my church’s service online, my small group meets on Zoom for fellowship and prayer. Ask the Holy Spirit for creativity for how you can passionately love others at this time.

4. Love Those Who Are Most Vulnerable

We are called to live selflessly not just thinking of ourselves but loving others as Jesus would. When we take social distancing seriously, we care for our vulnerable neighbors so that this disease spreads as little as possible, and hospitals will not be overwhelmed. Will you take time to pray for the vulnerable (the poor, houseless, prisoners, immigrants, those with weak immune systems, the elderly, children in difficult homes, those abused by their families, those struggling with mental health, the unemployed, and many more)?

How might Jesus call you to care for someone you know who is vulnerable? Can you pray for and with someone who is feeling anxious and fearful? As you provide for your own needs, can you share something with someone else?

5. Look for Open Doors

As I’ve experienced unexpected, stressful change on many levels, I’m awed by God’s amazing goodness. He’s shown me that when he closes one door, he will always open another. When our five-day spring break project was canceled, we had a very powerful worship night with time to turn away from being lukewarm to give our all to God. Another event was canceled, and God opened the door for us to bless many in my community with food and prayer. My housemate’s church had significantly more people listen to their online services locally and nationally.

Ask God what door he wants to open for you. How does he want you to grow in passionately loving him and others?

Be encouraged! God is bigger than COVID-19. He is the one who stills the storms, heals the sick, multiplies bread, and raises us from the dead. Hallelujah!

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