“This is not business as usual.” These wise words came from my boss’ boss at a meeting of key staff members two weeks ago. These same words had already come to my mind earlier that day.
The corona virus (COVID-19) pandemic has definitely impacted my workplace. How about you?
Let me reflect on some of challenges that we face together in our work situations in response to this pandemic, remind us of the kinds of valuable coworkers God provides to meet our human needs, and offer some hope grounded in a biblical perspective. I invite you to join me in seeing what God can do!
Unprecedented challenges at work
One family that I know well illustrates some of the complexities of responding to this pandemic. The husband is an adjunct college professor. His wife is a speech therapist at an elementary school. Both have been put on telework. Doing speech therapy virtually has proven to be a challenge. As they have three children under the age of five, so they also have to take care of their children. They are working together to find time to prepare lessons and engage their students while the other one watches the kids.
In addition to teleworking teachers, another effect of school closures is that thousands of parents have now been given a chance to home school. Two-parent families have had to make hard decisions as to which parent stays home if both worked before. Single parents have a much tougher time.
Other families have had much more drastic changes to their lives. Those who work in restaurants, retail stores, and professional sports venues are unemployed. Businesses, large and small, which are deemed “unnecessary” have been shut down, and their employees were told to stay home. I am hearing staggering statistics that 17 million Americans have lost their jobs; about one in ten working men and women. This is hard for me to fathom, and much harder to experience.
These unique challenges and others I did not mention are on top of the thorns and thistles that are spelled out in Gen. 3:17-19, where work became unnecessarily painful and unproductive because of Adam’s and Eve’s sin as well as our own. (See previous article in my blog.) All of us experience uncountable negative things at work every day. They are multiplied ten times over during this crisis.
Unfortunately, the Apostle Paul tells us in Rom. 8:19-22 that that we will experience this curse on work until Jesus returns. The good news is that there will come a day when He completely delivers us from the curse of sin. In Rev. 22:3, we see that when He returns that this curse will be no more.
God’s multi-talented coworkers
Let’s not merely focus on just the difficulties we face. What positive things can we see at work?
From a theological perspective, we must understand that on a grand scale, God has always provided for every aspect of human needs from the beginning. How has He done that? Through His coworkers.
A great illustration from Scripture of how God pulled together a team of skilled workers and leaders when the tabernacle was being built is found in the book of Exodus. (See previous article in my blog.)
To summarize, Exodus chapters 25 through 31 lays out Yahweh’s detailed instructions to Moses regarding the design and construction of the tabernacle, its major components, and the priests’ attire. Building this portable temple would require a variety of skilled craftsmen who were empowered by the very Spirit of God.
These chosen people with special occupations that Yahweh called upon were artisans and construction workers. Here are the kinds of talented people God would need on His team: carpenters, metalworkers, jewelers, seamstresses, embroiders, and even perfume makers. Each one of these “blue-collar” workers were necessary to get the project done safely, on time, and under budget.
What do we see God doing now? We see a variety of humans with God-given talents and skills, uniquely equipped to meet the physical, emotional, mental, social, and spiritual needs of people.
Make no mistake. God has a plan. He has provided a host of human coworkers to meet the vast array of human needs during this worldwide pandemic. We have scientists figuring out how to fight the virus. We have doctors and nurses treating patients. We have cleaning teams. We have reporters informing the public. We have government leaders pulling all of the nation’s vast resources together.
Dr. Timothy Keller, in his book, Every Good Endeavor, reminds us, “God does not simply create; he also loves, cares for, and nurtures his creation. He feeds and protects all he has made. But how does his providential care reach us? . . . God’s loving care comes to us largely through the labor of others. Work is a major instrument of God’s providence; it is how he sustains the human world.” Amen!
Can God bring any good out of all this?
Absolutely! God’s people, when faced with major crises like this, have often found ways to keep on trusting God to work all things out for good. Because He is good, they have put their hope in Him.
Despite recommendations to stay home, the Body of Christ has found creative ways to worship virtually. They are reaching out to the least, the lost, and the last such as the elderly, those whose immune systems are compromised, and those who have lost wages due to sudden unemployment.
What are we to do?
- Submit to (and pray for) local, state, and federal government leaders that God has put in place
- Be patient; the storm will pass; trust in God; don’t give in to fear
- Rejoice in the midst of your suffering and trials; encourage others to do the same
- Take advantage of this time to connect virtually with family, friends, and church members
I am fully confident that when this crisis is all over, Christ-followers will be able to testify that God was glorified and that our faith grew during this extended trial. Press on, my brothers and sisters!
Master Sergeant Russell E. Gehrlein (U.S. Army, Retired) is a Christian, husband of 39 years, father of three, grandfather of four, blogger, and author of “Immanuel Labor – God’s Presence in our Profession: A Biblical, Theological, and Practical Approach to the Doctrine of Work”, published by WestBow Press in February 2018. He received a B.S. in Mathematics from Colorado State University in 1980 and an M.A. in Biblical Studies from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary in 2015. He is also a former junior/senior high school math and science teacher and youth pastor. Russ currently works as a Department of the Army civilian at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.