For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven (Eccl 3:1 ESV).
By Stephen W. Hiemstra
Thinking about the lesson of Ecclesiastes 3 is easy: the best time to take out the garbage is on garbage day! While this seems like a brilliant statement of the obvious, we often respond, not pragmatically, but with denial and, so to speak, try to put garbage out on the wrong days.
My own career as an economist is a case in point. In the 1980s, U.S. agriculture was in crisis and many agricultural banks failed. I had trained as a European analyst, learning French, Spanish, and German, and studying abroad twice during my graduate school years, expertise that was quickly becoming obsolete because of such things like the Internet. Seeing that recruiters wanted financial economists, not European analysts, I went into finance in spite of a lack of specific training and set aside my beloved work in European affairs. This career move was painful, but financially was the best career move that I ever made.
My point? Crises create both problems and opportunities. It’s garbage day—are you willing to take out the garbage?
What Season is It?
Whether or not the politicians open the local economy or not, the corona pandemic is likely to a multiyear event, ending either when we have an effective vaccine or “herd immunity.” Pronouncements to date about a vaccine suggest that a vaccine may be available as early as 2021. Herd immunity will be reached once most of the population gets the corona virus and develop immunity. To date, less than one percent of the U.S. population has been exposed to the virus suggesting a long, uphill battle with this pandemic.
So what do we do in the meantime?
With roughly 26 million Americans out of work, the economic crisis parallels the Great Depression of the 1930s, which lasted about a decade. Social programs (the New Deal) introduced during the 1930s include the minimum wage, social security, various work programs, and encouraging students to complete high school (to keep them out of the workforce). A lot of the monuments and government buildings in Washington DC were constructed during this period. Unfortunately, the government’s best efforts to deal with the crisis did not end the pain. It was World War II that put Americans back to work.
Because of the economic stresses that many people currently feel, I expect that once this pandemic is over many more people will be living in three-generation households. We are smarter and stronger together when we depend on each other. The same is true for our church families.
Now is a Good Time to:
Now is a good time to take stock of your life and career while you have time on your hands. If you are employed and can pay your bills, count your blessings.
Now is a good time to spend time with your friends and family. On Easter Sunday, I visited my parents for the first time in six weeks. We watched their church online, ordered pizza, and held a family Zoom conference. (Check out Zoom.com for a free account). My parents had previous done none of these things so it was fun for all of us. Later, I learned that my parent’s church offers a telephone worship service on Sunday mornings that allows one to call in and listen to the entire service without the need for a computer.
Now is a good time to start an exercise program. Corona virus sickens most people and kills those with pre-existing conditions. Obesity is a contributing factor in many of those pre-existing conditions and it is something that you can do something about. Watch what you eat and take walks with your spouse in the evening. It could reduce your chances of a severe case.
Now is a good time to learn new things. In 2003, when I was between jobs, I visited a seminary for the first time. Feeling God’s call on my life, I began studying Greek (the New Testament was originally written in Greek) and began playing hymns daily.
Now is a good time to begin a new spiritual discipline. Pray when you get up and when you go to bed. Start a journal. Start a bible study. Check out a new church online. Join a small group. People are often surprised when I tell them that I view exercise as a spiritual discipline, but I often pray when I am jogging or swimming laps—it is only time that I am truly alone.
May God bless you during this stressful time.