Written By Su Weber, Australia
My husband and I were in the midst of travelling South America for a year when our trip was rudely terminated by the coronavirus. In late 2019, we had both quit our jobs and took off on a one-way ticket to Santiago. We were barely two months into our trip and were having a ball of a time when the pandemic brought the world to a grinding halt.
Governments across South America started shutting their borders and restricting movement. Airlines began cancelling flights in and out of the country. Panic started setting in over the nation—as well as our family, who were imploring us to come home.
We sat in an empty cafe, at a loss for what to do. We knew it would be wise to get the first flight home, but part of us also wanted to wait this out. We had planned, prayed, and prepared for this trip for a long time, and it felt like our dreams would be shattered if we went home.
God came through as we prayed for wisdom and guidance. Despite complications, we were able to book the next flight back to Australia, just before the Chilean government shut its borders.
We returned to Australia with our lives turned upside down: We have no job, no permanent home, and no plan. We had planned to look for jobs when we got back to Australia, but finding a job in this climate is an exercise in patience. We can’t conveniently access our stuff in storage due to the internal border closures, and although we have been so blessed to be hosted by my wonderful parents-in-law, this can’t continue indefinitely.
The disappointment of having our dream disrupted was a hard pill to swallow. But as I processed what had happened, two key questions come to mind:
1. Why is God allowing this to happen to the world (and selfishly, my plans)?
I have been reading the Old Testament book of Micah, where the prophet Micah warned the people of Israel and Judah against their sinful practices and injustice. He also warned against those who profess faith in God but live otherwise (Micah 3: 9–12).
It made me think about my own faith and whether I was truly living a life devoted to God. Sure, I profess faith in Jesus Christ, and I may not be practicing the overt injustices that the book of Micah highlights. But if I’m honest with myself, my heart often latches on to my own desires rather than anchoring my peace and security in Christ. I find myself often distracted by the cares of this world—putting my trust in my ability to support my family and my own needs and wants.
I realized I am prone to rely on myself to shape my plans and create the outcomes I seek. My disappointment in my disrupted travel plans revealed my misplaced sense of security. Ultimately, true security—one that stands the test of life’s uncertainties—can only be found in Christ. Could it be that God may potentially be allowing this pandemic, and even using it as a means to rouse us all from our apathy and draw us to His love?
2. If God is allowing this, how should we respond to this situation?
Over the past few weeks, I have seen instagrammable quotes and clever memes about how this pandemic should cause us all to stop and think about what we do and how we live—calling us to treat our planet better, emit less carbon, and better appreciate our frontline workers and community—all wonderful goals and aspirations for our society, which we should all get behind.
However, the missing component in these viral posts (pardon the pun) is how to deal with the flawed human heart—the heart that is held captive by selfishness, greed, and restlessness. The same heart that is so anxious it empties the shelves of toilet paper when panic hits, and that is easily disappointed when our plans are disrupted, or when life doesn’t go our way. And if we do not deal with the fundamental issues of our heart, will we quickly forget our resolutions and return to our self-focused ways when the coronavirus passes?
The events of the last few months have been an opportunity for me to allow God to work in my heart. Reflecting on Jesus’ consistent call to repentance (Matthew 4:17, Luke 13:3) has reminded me how desperately I need to turn to Him daily, and how much I have neglected this, allowing my daily cares and concerns to take priority instead.
With the coronavirus forcing a change in our routines and creating more space in our diaries, I have found myself turning my focus to God, quieting my soul, and spending more time in His Word and in prayer. There has been no better time to seek His will, and to ask Him to point my husband and I in the right direction, so our choices will reflect His goodness and grace.
We still do not know what lies next, but we do know that we have a good God who loves us and is working in our hearts. We know that we can trust Him, whatever may come.
If the coronavirus has also upturned your life, be encouraged that this is the perfect opportunity to devote time to seeking God, and to cast your burdens on Him (Psalm 55:22). Let’s not allow current circumstances to overtake our hearts with fear and anxiety, but turn even more to Christ, and let the peace of God which transcends all understanding guard our hearts and minds (Philippians 4:7).
It is hard to fathom, but the coronavirus has turned out to be the unexpected jolt I needed, to help me intentionally draw closer to God.