“The world is temporarily closed.”

I never liked it when anyone told me I can’t do something. It’s just in my nature. I’m the guy that if you tell me I can’t do something, I’m probably gonna give it a whirl, just to prove I can. Or die trying.

You may not be just like me, but my theology makes me believe there’s a little bit of rebel in all of us. We don’t like being told what we can’t do. During this season of global pandemic, there’s been a lot of national and statewide orders about “shelter at home” and “quarantine.” It feels restrictive, something we’re not used to in America. It’s made some people feel angry, but others safe. Like many issues in our world today, it’s a polarizing topic. Either human lives or human livelihood. Both are important. But since I’m not a scientist, economist, doctor, or politician, I’m not going to enter the fray there. I’m simply not that smart and don’t have enough reliable information. So I pray for those that do and the decisions they have to make. I don’t envy their position.

But one thing I’ve noticed about myself and others, is how this pandemic has changed our focus. Understandably, it’s focused us on everything we can’t do right now and it’s made some of us a little stir crazy.

  • I can’t eat at a restaurant.
  • I can’t visit my friends.
  • I can’t go on vacation (away from home.)
  • I can’t get my hair/nails/massage done.
  • I can’t go bowling…or to a concert…or inside a church building.
  • I can’t watch sports. (Not from this year anyway.)
  • And for many of us, I can’t go to work.

This has been a weird one for me. All of my speaking engagements through July (except for one so far – fingers crossed) have been cancelled. I’ve had to cancel all of my Appalachian Trail hikes this Spring because the Forest Service and the ATC have effectively closed the trail due to COVID-19 concerns. And my counseling appointments have dwindled from 10-12 a week down to 1-2 a week. Add to all of that, the frustrating reality that I can’t look into the future and tell when this will end and what the world will look like on the other side. To be totally honest, I’ve felt a little stuck.

Can’t, can’t can’t. 

As one of my friends likes to say, “Can’t never could.”

But last week, I felt like God was changing my focus. Challenging me to think about all the things I can do right now:

  • I can love people well. 
  • I can be generous and help others, even if it’s from a social distance.
  • I can pray for people. (Marlina and I have prayed more in the last month that we have in the last 3 years!)
  • I can worship. I can sing. I can dance. (Well technically, that last one’s not true, but I can try.)
  • I can gather with my family and enjoy a meal.
  • I can go outside and run or walk. Or work in the yard. Or finish a home project.
  • I can go to the wilderness (which I did last weekend – very good for my soul.)
  • I can have a two-hour Zoom dinner with friends in Tennessee.

And as for my work:

  • I can write. 
  • I can update web content.
  • I can do video counseling. 
  • I can create video seminars. 
  • I can record podcast episodes.
  • I can offer books and videos to provide hope to people who desperately need it.

I can.

This whole thing reminded me of the familiar passage we’ve all heard, where the Apostle Paul says, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” But do you remember what the context is for that statement? 

Contentment.

Listen to the whole passage. “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” (Phillippians 4:11-14, NIV)

I can.

The temptation in this season is to be discontent in our circumstances. But we truly can be content if we’ll focus on what we can do verses what we can’t do.

So what about you friend? Have you been focused on what you can’t do and felt troubled or unsettled? Change your focus. Instead of focusing on all the things you can’t do right now, focus on the good things you can do. Make a running list of all the things you can do right now…and go do them!

Photo by Edwin Hooper on Unsplash

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