Are you stuck at home because of the coronavirus? Quarantined, self-isolated, or socially distanced? Now that you’ve completed that series on Netflix / Disney + / Amazon Prime etc, you might be wondering how to fill the day. Thankfully, there’s plenty of great stuff you can do, even more so if you’re a follower of Jesus. This time could be, in some ways, a highlight of your year. So here’s a few principles and practical ideas.
Justified by Grace
Before we get into how to use your time well, it’s worth reminding ourselves that we are justified by grace. We’re not justified by having a calm and wise response to the pandemic; we’re not justified by faultless social distancing; we’re not justified by perfect use of our time while we’re stuck at home. We’re justified by grace. The Bible says:
Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. (Rom 5:18-19)
Adam got it wrong from the start. We get it wrong every day. Adam, Eve and every human, including us, deserve condemnation; even for the variety of foolish and sinful ways we’ve responded to the pandemic. But Jesus was perfectly righteous in his life and in his death. If he was on earth now he would be the only one who has responded perfectly to the coronavirus outbreak. Thankfully, by his obedience and his sacrificial death we are justified; we are ‘made righteous’.
This is a great blessing and a reason for joy, even in the midst of everything that’s going on. It is so crucial to remember before we turn to questions of ‘what to do’ in the current situation. Whether we use our time well or poorly, if we react with zen-like calm or overwhelming panic, we are still justified by grace.
Making the best use of the time
With that foundational idea in place, it’s true that we should make the best use of the time. Paul says in Ephesians:
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil (Eph 5:15-16).
The days certainly are evil – sickness, death and hoarding of toilet paper among other things. We don’t want to waste our time on meaningless activities that add to our worries and anxieties. Now is the time to walk with wisdom. Now is the time for the prayer of Psalm 90 (for some of us quite literally):
So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom (Ps 90:12).
Three general ideas
Before we get to specific suggestions, here are three general ideas or principles:
- Cultivate in yourself a heart of thankfulness. Give thanks for the extra time. Give thanks for technology. Give thanks for the way this pandemic is teaching us greater dependence on Jesus. Whatever might be going, give thanks.
- Be generous to others. You might learn on social media or through other avenues that people are doing things differently to you or spending their time at home differently. That’s ok. Be generous in your heart towards others.
- Go with the flow of the day. You’ll probably find there are times at the day when you’re switched on and other times when your concentration flags. At some times you’ll be in good shape to be social, at other times you’ll feel like being alone. Think about how you can use the flow of the day well. For example, it might be worth using the times when your brain is sharpest for activities involving Bible reading and prayer.
So how can I use the time?
So here we go. Here’s some ideas:
- Read lots of Bible. Try large chunks or only a few verses. Use the Swedish method, COMA method, or Manuscript Discovery.
- Use the Time with God booklets we produce at Hunter Bible Church or other devotional helps. I’m using “90 Days in Genesis, Exodus, Psalms, Galatians“.
- Alongside your Bible reading, go through a short commentary cover to cover. I’m planning on reading “1 and 2 Timothy For You” by Phillip Jensen sometime soon.
- Spend time in prayer. Pray short prayers and long prayers. Write your prayers down or use the prayers in Psalms or a book like “Valley of Vision“. Set up prayermate on your phone.
- Read Christian books (or listen to the audio version). Mix things up with recent books, such as “Thank God for Bedtime“, and older books such as Augustine’s Confessions or a chapter out of J.C. Ryle’s Holiness. Read books on Christian living such as Tim Challies’ “The Next Story” but also books about the Bible and theology such as Ray Galea’s “From Here to Eternity“. Read a biography such as “Through Gates of Splendor” by Elisabeth Elliott.
- Listen to Christian podcasts. Two that I listen to are “The Centre For Christian Living Podcast” and “The Pastor’s Heart“.
- Call someone everyday (and include a video call if possible). Make of list of everyone you know who’s also stuck at home and call someone everyday. You could text ahead something like: “Hi…. I’m stuck at home….Would you like to have a virtual coffee catch up? What’s a good time I can call?” Include your non-Christian friends and family as well.
- Enjoy good stuff from the non-Christian world. Documentaries, podcasts, fiction, non-fiction, there’s great stuff out there. Avoid things that make you grumpy and irritable. Instead, make the most of things that help you relax or get you thinking (or both). I’m a fan of the “Hardcore History Podcast” and “Comedian in Cars Getting Coffee” on Netflix. Try not to binge.
- Everything else. Exercise, domestic tasks, home repair jobs, board games, computer games that don’t make you unpleasant to be around, photography, knitting, breadmaking etc etc.
Remembering grace again
Obviously with a list like that you could feel guilty if the day flops and you end up having read one chapter of Genesis but watched six hours of that show you’d rather not admit to watching. Perhaps your only prayer has been a fleeting cry for help that someone would bring you toilet paper. But remember grace again. Jesus Christ is the one who was, and is, perfectly obedient and righteous. He is the only one who used every day perfectly. It is his death and resurrection that means we are now right with God. Praise God for his mercy, forgiveness and love.