In Italy, we’re in the midst of a fascinating social experiment: millions of people in lockdown for an indefinite number of days or weeks, maybe months.
For some, it’ll be a chance to take stock. For others, anxiety will dominate. For others, tension will rise as they share limited space.
Here people are finding various ways to survive, but wouldn’t it be good to not only survive, but to redeem it as a gift from a generous heavenly Father? We didn’t ask for this, and perhaps lockdown is your worst nightmare, but here are a few thoughts on how to thrive during these odd and frightening days.
1. Delight in God’s grace and in being gracious.
We are saved by grace (Eph. 2:8), and we grow in godliness by grace (Eph. 2:10)—amazing news for fallen, fragile creatures. Keep returning to these truths as you sin during lockdown. As you lose patience with your children, spouse, elderly relative, or housemates, flee to the cross. Enjoy the forgiveness and mercy Jesus alone can give.
Be quick to say sorry and quick to forgive. People are scared and irrational. They’ll say and do things they don’t necessarily mean, so bless them with grace. Be “kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Eph. 4:32). “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins” (1 Pet. 4:8).
Take a moment to think through the last 24 hours. Who do you need to say sorry to? Go, do it now.
2. Take one day at a time.
Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matt. 6:34)
Focus on the present. Don’t get caught up in negative thought cycles and what ifs. Give thanks for the many blessings that you have received today.
Keep a note of thanksgiving and share with others in church. We’ve been doing that as a church here with videos, and it has been a huge encouragement.
3. Speak to yourself.
Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. (Ps. 43:5)
As Martin Lloyd-Jones wrote, “Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself?” Take unhelpful thoughts captive. This can be particularly difficult during a sleepless night, when our fears and concerns take on pandemic proportions.
Get up, read God’s Word and repeat it to yourself until your Good Shepherd’s voice drowns out fear.
4. Stop what you’re doing and read the Bible.
Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth. (Ps. 46:10)
I’m not good at being still, even worse at stopping. As the Lord forces us to do both during lockdown, why not rejoice at this opportunity to know him better? In the clamor of 24-hour news alerts and social media, treasure his Word.
Set aside time to read and meditate on Scripture. Build it into your daily routine.
5. Stay calm and pray.
These days of lockdown represent a keen opportunity to pour out our hearts to our heavenly Father. Usually, there are many distractions, but not now. Let’s use every moment, as individuals, as couples, as families to intercede for the sick and dying, for the medical services, for the government, for fellow Christians, and for those who don’t yet know Christ.
Plan the next seven days of prayer. When will you pray? With whom? For whom?
6. Stay in touch.
Whether we’re together under one roof on a Sunday or separated in homes, we remain one body, one family, one holy temple. Keep in touch with each other using the myriad social-media platforms, interactive virtual meetings, and livestreams available today.
One pastor remarked recently that for the first time since the invention of the internet, it feels we’re redeeming it for God’s glory. Ring each other and let each other know you’re praying and thinking of each other. Be mindful of those feeling lonely and isolated.
Write a list of people you want to contact over the next week. Think through ways to include those with less access to technology.
7. Regulate news intake.
We can easily become obsessed with the latest coronavirus stats. How many cases, which countries and cities, how many deaths, where are we on the bell curve? Be careful how much time you spend monitoring the news: it can quickly dominate your waking hours in an unhealthy way.
Stay informed, but beware of obsessive tendencies. Regulate screen time. As you watch the news, pray for each point.
8. Delineate work from family and rest time.
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens. (Eccles. 3:1).
In lockdown, every day seems the same. Weekdays and weekends seem the same. It’s easy to lose track of time. As much as possible, then, build structure into your days and weeks.
Many of us will be working from home. Our children will have virtual school classes. Build sustainable routines around these moments: work times, family or social times, rest times. Try to stick to them. Have designated work space and leave your phone there. Try to make the weekend feel like a weekend. What are your usual rest patterns, and how could they translate to life in lockdown?
Draw up the first draft of a daily routine. Put it into practice and test. Adjust as you go.
9. Establish personal space.
Regardless of whether you are an extrovert or an introvert, we all need time and space to ourselves. This can be difficult in small living spaces with young families. How can you create a space to recharge on your own? Be creative with space: one of our daughters has found that she studies well in our cupboard (we’ve noticed our biscuit supply has taken a hit during lockdown!).
Look around your home and garden: how can you allocate space? Look at your daily routine: is there some down time for each of you?
For physical training is of some value. . . . (1 Tim. 4:8)
Exercise strengthens the body, helps keep the mind healthy, and boosts energy levels. While complying with quarantine restrictions, exercise regularly.
Dig out your old gym kit and go for it.
Cling to Christ
To thrive in lockdown is to set up a spiritually, mentally, and physically sustainable life. The farther into this we go, the more distant and intangible the end feels.
I don’t want to sound alarmist, but we may not return to life as usual. Perhaps the real battles will begin post-lockdown. In that case, we need to find a way to thrive in this time so that we can face whatever comes our way, trusting we can do nothing without the Lord’s sustaining hand.