As countries around the world move to contain the spread of the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19), millions of people have been advised and even requested by their governments to self-quarantine. From Argentina to Canada to France and beyond, by mid-March 2020, national governments have decreed preventative measures, including staying home for two, three, or more weeks. School sessions have been canceled, public venues have been closed, and churches have moved to online worship services only. Public transportation is being drastically reduced or suspended. One after the other, public health experts are advising people to stay inside as much as possible.
It’s very likely that millions of Seventh-day Adventists church members are also affected.
According to media reports, most people staying home are still working regular hours, so it does not mean they’re on vacation or have suddenly many hours to spare. For many, however, saving daily commuting time and the usual time they used to spend with other errands may mean they have some extra hours on their hands.
What could we as Seventh-day Adventists do during that time? What activities, initiatives, or projects could we undertake not only to “pass the time” but to make the most of those extra hours? Here are 12 suggestions to consider:
1. Be thankful. Chances are, the quarantine has affected your personal and family daily routine. Both in your personal and your family life, however, make a point of being thankful for what you have and not complain about what you lack. It’s something that implies accepting that even in the best of cases, life is full of ups and downs. Every day, however, presents a new opportunity. As an old saying goes, “Those who see the glass half empty or half full miss the point. The glass is refillable.” Or as the prophet Jeremiah put it following the experience of Jerusalem’s destruction, “[God’s] compassions fail not. They are new every morning” (Lam. 3:22, 23). Thank God for such a blessing.
2. Memorize Scripture, the “old-fashioned” way. In moments of crisis, we have traditionally been told to claim God’s promises. At the same time, sudden world developments such as the COVID-19 crisis may help us envision a time when we may not have free, unrestricted access to God’s Word. What if we make a point of selecting a section or a book of the Bible and memorize it? You’ll be surprised how much your memory can stretch if you push it a little! In The Great Controversy, Ellen White wrote that the Waldensians did just that. The Bible’s “precious words were committed to memory. Many were able to repeat large portions of both the Old and the New Testament” (p. 67). That’s a great example to follow.
3. Enlarge your list of prayer requests. As a Seventh-day Adventist, you likely are already praying for those affected by the pandemic and their close relatives. Now it’s time to enlarge your list. If you’re not yet doing so, take time to pray for health-care givers, government decision-makers, and those making calls on public health issues. Pray for those who are working against the clock to produce a vaccine to combat COVID-19. Even though many of them may not be believers, they’re unknowingly using their God-given mental abilities to benefit others. Pray for those who may get closer to God as a result of the current ordeal. Pray for those who are being called to their rest, that they may make their peace with God while they still have time.
4. Brush up on that neglected hobby or activity. A few extra minutes a day may help you to resume a half-forgotten hobby or activity. Maybe it’s time to brush up on your Spanish or edit the thousands of family photos stored on your hard drive. Did you use to play a musical instrument? You could pick up where you left off and start practicing again. Set concrete goals, such as, “I’ll start working on a special musical number to play in church when the quarantine is over.”
5. Carve out some daily time for solo or family singing. Singing can be a powerful tool to fight discouragement and lift our spirits. When living on this earth, Jesus “held communion with heaven in song; and as His companions complained of weariness from labor, they were cheered by the sweet melody from His lips” (The Desire of Ages, p. 73). Even though many of us would never dare to sing in public, all of us can benefit from following in Jesus’ footsteps.
6. Be intentional about family conversations. Perhaps quarantine can become a wonderful time to finally have some of those family talks you’ve been putting off for a while. Were you planning to discuss life choices, addictions, or chat-room use with your children? This may finally be the opportunity to do it! Are you worried about their lack of spiritual commitment, or do you want to impress a specific moral or spiritual lesson on them? Stop procrastinating—and start life-changing conversations!
7. Make at least one specific positive change to your health. If you are a regular commuter, make the decision to use at least part of the time saved to make a positive change to your health. Choose your food more carefully. Sleep one more hour. Increase your physical exercise time. If you can’t go out (or if it’s not advisable to do so), exercise at home. You don’t need a full-blown house gym for it. Sometimes it’s as simple as following the prompts of a physical trainer on a YouTube video.
8. Use social media to encourage others. Move past coronavirus memes and doomsday-prediction videos to make the most of the opportunities social media present to bless others. Social media can be used as an evangelistic tool to encourage fellow believers and unbelievers alike. Get in touch with senior neighbors and make sure their basic needs are cared for. If they need help, assess what you can do to support them. In this regard, less is often more. While most people may not appreciate a 92-page treatise of speculative prophetic scenarios, they will certainly remember a to-the-point quotation or an invitation to dig deeper into specific biblical or inspirational topics. Or in the case of shut-ins and seniors, a trip to the food store on their behalf might be helpful.
9. Do not overlook church services. Even though most in-person church services have been canceled or moved online, church service time should still be used to gather, praise, and study God’s Word. Do not assume that because “there’s no church,” you have more time to spend on other pursuits. Watch a church service online at regular times, especially on the Sabbath. As an alternative, you can still use digital tools such as Zoom, Skype, or other apps to connect with a small group of believers to worship and get inspired together.
10. Re-evaluate your priorities and what’s important in life. Even when considering best-case scenarios, moments such as the COVID-19 quarantine remind us how shaky some of the pillars of contemporary society can suddenly become. In that sense, the current global crisis may help you to “stop running” and reconsider what objects, people, and values are important in your life. Which are the things you could not do without? Which things have you been giving too much attention to, even though they’re not worth it? If you would lose most of what you have or hold dear overnight, which are the things that would help you go on? How does your relationship with God fit into this picture?
11. Ask God to give you peace of mind and balance. At a time when thousands have turned to social media to post anything from flat-out denials to startling conspiracy theories, ask God to help you stay balanced and positive. Claim the promise that He “will keep . . . in perfect peace” those who keep trusting Him (Isa. 26:3). Look behind and beyond everyday events to the whole picture, as many of us believe we’re witnessing Bible prophecy being fulfilled before our eyes. Don’t fall in with the latest COVID-19 “revelation” or unproved, self-touted “cure.” Go back to readings that give you background and perspective about world events, such as Ellen White’s Last Day Events. But read them in hope, not in fear.
12. Renew your commitment to Jesus and His church. Use this period of relative confinement to renew your resolve to be faithful, even unto death (Rev. 2:10). If you have not done it before, commit to being a proactive and positive influence in your neighborhood and local church. Spiritually speaking, do you feel you may have been somehow slumbering lately? Perhaps you could use this crisis (which will, most likely, not be the last one) to wake up and get involved in doing something for Jesus “while it is day” (John 9:4). And yes, “look up and lift up your [head], because your redemption draws near” (Luke 21:28).