The world’s hastened and ever-evolving response to the spread of COVID-19 has demonstrated to each of us just how quickly normal life can be turned upside down.
Who would have thought at the beginning of March, with schools still in session, regular social gatherings unaffected, etc., that within days schools and universities would be closed, non-essential businesses vacated and families isolated to their homes under “shelter in place” restrictions?
Amidst all that is chaotic and possibly scary. Current conditions being what they are, the peace of the Savior is available to all.
To His own apostles, the Savior said, “In the world thou shalt have tribulations. But, fear not; I have overcome the world,” John 16:33. At another time in His ministry, Christ reassured His followers with this promise, “I will not leave you comfortless,” John 14:18.
These words of promise and love are as pertinent today as they were two millennia ago when He spoke them in person.
In fact, the scriptures are replete with examples of burdened people being comforted in God’s perfect love, and ultimately delivered by His matchless power. In the Old Testament we read of such examples as Joseph of Egypt, Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego – all of whom were delivered by God from great difficulties and life-threatening circumstances, according to the account of Joseph, as recorded in Genesis 37-42 and the accounts of the children of the Hebrews taken to be raised in the courts of the King of Babylon, as recorded in Daniel 2-3.
We also read of the Israelites led by Moses, delivered from generations of slavery in Egypt and upheld by God during 40 difficult years in the wilderness, according to the account of Moses and his dealings with Pharaoh, the leading of the Israelites from Egypt, and their wonderings in the wilderness before entering the Promised Land in Exodus – Deuteronomy.
In the New Testament we read of individuals burdened with disease, with evil spirits, or with serious sin; they were all healed by the power of the Savior. Many examples of Christ healing those with diseases or other medical issues are found in the New Testament. Christ also healed many of evil spirits, or possession. Examples include Matthew 8:16, Matthew 9:32-33 and Mark 5:2-13.
All of these scriptural examples demonstrate three distinct truths about God and His relationship with His children. These truths remain true, and apply to us, today:
1. God delivers His children from great difficulties as they place their faith in Him.
2. God loves His children and is an active Parent.
3. God turns the trials in our lives into experiences that bless us, that grow and improve us.
These three truths, when applied in our personal lives, have great power and bring peace and comfort. They confirm to us that current challenges are temporary, that we have help available from Heaven, and that we can come out the other side of this time of trial better people than we were when we entered.
I have seen two major ways that the challenges associated with COVID-19 have orchestrated conditions that have improved me, and made me better.
First, my family is stronger because of COVID-19. With eight children between the ages of 2 and 18, we felt the constant pull of the world to take time away from our family, impeding us from spending the time necessary to develop the loving relationships we desire to have with each other.
“Stay at Home” mandates have eliminated most of the activities that compete for precious family time. As a result, our family has grown closer together. My relationship with each of our children is stronger because of COVID-19, and we are creating special memories together that will always serve to draw us closer to each other (included in which will be the memories of countless games of Uno and Play Nine!).
Second, COVID-19 has provided a unique opportunity to assess our own preparedness to face calamity. Our physical preparations – food, hygiene and monetary stores – have been tested. With churches closed, our spiritual preparations and determinations to seek God and draw close to him on our own, without the help of regular public worship services, have also been tested. In both physical and spiritual matters, we have noticed adequacies and inadequacies in our preparedness. COVID-19 has provided us the opportunity to identify areas where our preparations were weak or vulnerable, and to make necessary improvements. As such, our family will be better prepared for future challenges and trials.
I suggest to you that in these two ways, strengthening our family relationships and improving our families’ spiritual/physical preparedness, each of our families could be made better and stronger because of the COVID-19 crisis. In an unanticipated paradox, the very agent and cause of the incredible strain on society that we are witnessing is simultaneously providing a powerful bolstering to the most basic and fundamental unit of society: the family.
As has been said by a great religious leader of our time, Harold B. Lee, a past president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, “The most important work you and I will ever do will be within the walls of our own homes.” The statement appears in “Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Harold B. Lee.”
The COVID-19 crisis has put us in the position to do more within those walls, and to figuratively and literally fortify them and those that dwell within them.
There are many other ways that God can turn this trial into an experience that blesses our lives. Think about ways that you are being bettered because of the COVID-19 crisis. As you do, remember the important truths about God that the scriptures teach, and take courage. He loves us. As we exercise faith in Him, He will deliver us and He will cause that all things will work together for our good, according to Romans 8:28.
Michael Turner serves as a counselor in the Frederick Stake Presidency for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Frederick. He is also a professor at Mount St. Mary’s University.