Today, we all find ourselves confined by the grinding halt forced upon us by the ominous COVID-19.  Confinement and isolation have become the norm for most.  Anticipating that this may be life as we know it for the foreseeable future may certainly evoke a range of unpleasant emotions—anxiety, helplessness, depression, loneliness, panic, and despair to name a few.  Many are feeling stir-crazy as they abide by new government imposed restrictions, and there are even chilling reports of increased child-abuse as parents are now forced to “do life” 24-hours a day with their children.     

Yet, for Christians, these new parameters are powerless to stifle the beauty and purposes of everyday life.  Whether we find ourselves putting together a puzzle at the kitchen table, nestled in our favorite chair while enjoying a good book, gathered with our loved ones watching our favorite movie, or rushing in and out of the grocery store in our attempts to avoid contamination, every one of these moments are intimately connected with transcendence, and the ultimate location in which they are taking place has nothing to do with kitchen tables, chairs, living rooms or grocery stores.  Confinement is an illusion for the child of God.  Yet, it is certainly conceivable that we may feel otherwise since we often forget our actual citizenship, and therefore our ultimate location.

Consider Paul’s declaration, “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13-14).  This is a stunning announcement, and it is quite relevant to our current situation.  Paul is bringing clarity by helping us see that the ultimate location in which believers are currently navigating the challenges of COVID-19 is not in the confines of their homes or situated in a certain town or city.  No, the ultimate location in which Christians are currently navigating this crisis is the glorious kingdom of light, the kingdom of Jesus—an eternal kingdom where God’s purposes are ever unfolding and cannot be thwarted.  

John the Baptist announced to us over 2000 years ago, “…the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3:2).  Jesus, himself, actually discussed this kingdom when visiting with Nicodemus, “…Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3).  So, according to the Scriptures, the kingdom of God is here—it is now.  Even more astonishing is that we have been given the unfathomable blessing to see a kingdom that not everyone can see (Matthew 13:11-16).  We are divinely empowered to understand the purposes of this kingdom in ways that many in our world cannot (1 Corinthians 2:14-16).  For those whose hearts have been made alive by God’s amazing grace (Ephesians 2:4-7), this kingdom brings a new dimension to existence and reorients everything where dwelling with God, moment by moment, and pursuing his glory and purposes in all things—including activities like eating and drinking—(1 Corinthians 10:31) become the new joys and passions of the soul.  The current relevance for Christ followers is that as we abide by the new parameters of our earthly kingdom amid COVID-19, that we do so as actual citizens of the kingdom of God wherein every one of our experiences is carefully designed to shape us so that we more and more image the ruler of this kingdom, Jesus, in every aspect of our beings—thoughts, words, desires, actions, etc.  

One Christian writer put it this way, “The goal of God’s work in us is to bring our lives into harmony and agreement with His own righteousness, and so to manifest to ourselves and others our identity as His adopted children.”[1]  He later notes that Scripture “teaches us to contemplate our lives in relation to God, our Author, to whom we are bound.  And, having taught us that we have fallen from the true state and condition of our original creation, Scripture adds that Christ, through whom we have been restored to favor with God, is set before us as a model whose form and beauty should be reflected in our own lives.”[2]   These are very insightful words, and they point to the fact that the Christian life is following a very specific trajectory.  It is a trajectory that has been set by the eternal plans of God wherein He has predetermined to use every detail of our life-experiences, within His kingdom, to conform us into the image of His beloved Son (Romans 8:28-29).  

Let’s circle back to the examples cited earlier to consider how this applies to our here and now circumstances.  Examining our daily activities while envisioning the kingdom of God helps us see that putting together a puzzle at the kitchen table is far more than a fun (or frustrating) challenge.  It is actually a reflection of our Creator as we apply our own minds and creative abilities while bringing order from utter chaos.  Enjoying a good book while resting in a cozy chair is occasion to give thanks to God for his kindness in giving us the abilities to read and enjoy.  Gathering with family to watch a movie together is opportunity to grow in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23) that we would more and more actualize our redemptive design.  Running into the grocery store can certainly be an unsettling event, but it is also a time we may aspire to Christ-like faith as when he himself was plunged into the darkest moment in human history (Mathew 26:42).  

In each of these scenarios, there is more going on than meets the eye, and the ideas of confinement or wasted time are illusory.  No situational circumstance can limit or erase the glorious realities unfolding in God’s kingdom—every moment of every day.  A child’s defiance is an opportunity to image the divine while empowered by God’s grace.  A spouse’s irritability is a context where Spirit-infused kindness and gentleness may flourish.  Boredom may become the gateway to moving into authentic godly contentment.  It is in these seemingly mundane moments that we are being formed into creatures whose hearts are more and more enamored and motivated by God’s glory.  These are moments where we are being made mature and complete, and are becoming people who lack nothing (James 1:2-4).    

The kingdom of heaven is indeed at hand (Matthew 3:2), and according to Jesus those who have been given eyes to see this kingdom are blessed (Matthew 13:16).  Let’s work diligently to see what God is doing in His kingdom (and our hearts) during this providential season.  Yet, as we do so, we will likely realize that the blessedness of our new vision also carries the potential to create frustration since we will often fall short in reflecting Jesus in all we do.  Since failure in this journey of redemption is inevitable it is important, as we conclude, to consider these encouraging words from one of the greatest theologians in church history:

“Of course, none of us is capable of running swiftly on the right course while we remain in the earthly confinement of our bodies.  Indeed, most of us are so oppressed with weakness that we make little progress—staggering, limping, and crawling on the ground.  But let us move forward accordingly to the measure of our resources and pursue the path we have begun to walk.  None of us will move forward with so little success that we will not make some daily progress in the way.  Therefore, let us keep trying so that we might continually make some gains in the way of the Lord, and neither let us despair over how small our successes are.  For however much our successes fall short of our desire, our efforts aren’t in vain when we are farther along today than yesterday…Let us press on with continual striving toward that goal so that we might surpass ourselves—until we have finally arrived at perfection itself.  This, indeed, is what we follow after and pursue all our lives, but we will only possess it when we have escaped the weakness of the flesh and have been received into His perfect fellowship.”[3]   

[1] John Calvin, A Little Book on the Christian Life (Orlando FL:  Reformation Trust),2017, 3.

[2] Ibid., 9

[3] Ibid., 16-17