How will you make the most of quarantine?

BY: Melissa Long

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What does the coronavirus lockdown, quarantine or whatever you’re calling it, sound like where you are? That’s right, I said sound.

Here’s what it sounds like in my home.

One minute my children are giggling. The next they’re fighting. Give us ten minutes, and you’ll hear tears. For me, these are the familiar sounds of life during the coronavirus pandemic.

Our bad habits are harder to hide in the environment of a quarantine. Yet our healthy habits can keep us afloat now that the only place to go is within the four walls of our homes.

How are you thinking about the current situation? Maybe you see quarantine as a terrible season to endure. It is a difficult moment in so many ways, there’s no doubting that.

But is there an option other than just waiting out COVID-19? Could this actually be a time when circumstances allow God to do something truly life-changing in you and through you?

What do you want to be different about you and your life when the coronavirus has passed? Quarantine is something you’re going to experience whether you like it or not, so how will you make the most of the experience?

What’s the big deal about habits?

Changing your everyday life in lasting ways is not easy. It takes intentionality and a willingness to form new habits one step at a time. Changing your spiritual life for the better is no different.

Habits develop in all of our lives. They are inevitable, but also essential, and here’s why. Habits are small decisions we make every day, consciously or unconsciously. Those decisions influence many of the actions you and I take.

“Your habits are, in fact, one of the most important things about you,” writes David Mathis in his article, “How Your Habits Show and Shape Your Heart.” He continues, “Those repeated actions … reveal your true self over time as much as anything.”

So becoming aware of your habits, and choosing which ones to cultivate can change your life.

Think about the habits you desire

Most of us seldom take time to study our habits. We have so much going on in our lives that the urgent gets in the way of what we actually believe is truly important.

So, before life returns to whatever normal is beyond COVID-19, this may be your moment to think seriously about what you want your normal to be.

Many people are using the coronavirus quarantine to teach themselves a new skill, read a bunch of books or focus on their physical well-being. But are we taking the time to think about how to actively pursue becoming more like Jesus? If not, why not?

We have a choice about which habits we actively develop, as well as those we want to focus on removing. This is especially important as you think and pray about the steps of faith you want to take on your journey with Jesus.

So what habits will you ask God to help you develop during the COVID-19 crisis?

Here are four simple principles to consider as you ask yourself that question:

  1. Start small. Sociologists say that when we try to change too much at once, we are much less likely to return to the new behavior the next day.
  2. Make it consistent and trackable. Consider setting a reminder in MissionHub to keep track of your new habit.
  3. Reflect on progress. Every so often look back and note how far you’ve come.
  4. Remember you are currently in quarantine. Think in terms of that reality, but use it as a foundation for the long-term future.

Forming new habits is not an easy process. Your bad habits may put up a fight. So be kind to yourself. And remember, you do not have to do it alone.

MissionHub is here to support you. Creating or joining one of our Communities could help you develop the spiritual habits you desire. But most importantly, God is in you and with you.

Your habits with God

Once you decide what habits you want to form, you need to think about how you’re going to form them.

When my life gets busy, one of the first things to go is the essential habit of finding space to be with God. But regular time with the Lord is like food and water for our journey with God.

When we regularly connect with God, we live with his power at work in and through us. He guides us and goes with us as we take steps of faith with the people in our lives.

In “A Long Obedience in the Same Direction” Eugene Peterson writes, “It is the fusion of God speaking to us (Scripture) and our speaking to him (prayer) that the Holy Spirit uses to form the life of Christ in us.”

Pausing daily to focus on your relationship with God allows you to grow deeper with him.

So what is a habit you want to develop about the way you spend time with God?

Growing godly habits with others

Hot tears burned my eyes as I read a recent Facebook message.

“We cannot wait to see your faces again.”

I miss real, live faces. I miss simple physical proximity to other humans. And I live with three other humans.

When God said at the very beginning of the human story that it was not good for people to be alone, he really meant it.

In a sense, we’re all grieving the loss of our normal ways of relating to one another. And it’s important not to ignore or rush past this sense of grief, because it has something to teach us.

As you spend time with God, ask him to help you understand what you miss most about the people in your life, and how you can respond to that in healthy ways.

Video calls will never replace sitting around a real campfire or sharing a coffee with our friends. But this moment can help us develop better habits about intentionally building relationships with those we care about. Surfing social media gives us only a surface impression of what’s going on in other people’s lives. You and I need more.

What if, as a step of faith, you told someone what you miss about him or her?

It’s also possible that physical distance has magnified dysfunction in some of your relationships. We want to love others well, but meaningful relationships are almost always a little messy.

If you want to develop the habit of investing deeply in the relationships that matter most to you, think about the following:

  • Begin with kindness, which grows when we think the best of others.
  • Ask God to help you practice generosity by finding ways to share your time, practical skills or financial resources with someone in need.
  • Remember that the people closest to you may also be the hardest ones to love — and you might be the hardest person for them to love.

Improving your relationships is one thing, but developing new patterns of behavior in your spiritual life can feel like a supernatural effort. That’s why the secret to our success lies in understanding the role of the Holy Spirit.

The ultimate habit-tracker: the Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit is perfectly placed to help you develop godly habits. He changes you from within as you depend on him.

In Galatians 5:22–23 we’re given a list of qualities the Holy Spirit wants to release in us.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness [and] self-control.”

One thing the qualities in that list have in common is that they can and should improve your relationships as others see these qualities in you.

So meditate on the fruit of the Spirit as you think about a specific person God has placed in your life. This will help you develop godly habits.

If you’re using the MissionHub app, think about someone you entered in the People tab. Then set yourself a reminder to pray for one or more of the fruits of the Spirit as you relate to that person.

To find out more about living a Spirit-filled life, download the GodTools app and check out a tool called “Satisfied?”

Developing healthy habits with yourself 

On day 22 of quarantine it hit me. The only person I can count on living with for the rest of my life is me.

This is a great time to create new habits in how you relate to God and other people. But it’s just as important to think and pray about how well you are loving the one human you’re stuck with for life: yourself.

Different people are reacting to quarantine in different ways. Some are taking on more projects than ever as a way of filling the time. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that. But if you’re one of those people, are you leaving time to reflect on what you want to be true of your life both now and in the future?

The habits we practice in relation to ourselves are both internal and external. The two are interconnected. A healthy internal life supports external health.

It may be that you really need to pay attention to your body’s physical needs. That is not unspiritual. God wants you to be physically, emotionally and spiritually healthy. And now you have some time to develop habits that contribute to all of those things.

The coronavirus may be causing you to feel like you’re unravelling emotionally, or like you’re experiencing new levels of stress and anxiety. You can try to ignore that or to distract yourself with activity, or you can pause and ask God what’s going on and what he wants you to learn through this experience.

You will only know what needs attention when you slow down and ask God to help you see your own life more clearly. Doing this in an intentional way, and on a regular basis, is developing a healthy habit in yourself.

Whom are your habits serving?

There’s no doubt that we’re living in an unprecedented time. But such a moment in human history may actually be the ideal time to ask God to do something in and through you that you have never seen him do before.

So as you think about the habits you want to form during this time, or ways you hope this experience will change you forever, ask yourself who you are changing for.

People who do not know Jesus can focus a lot of energy on becoming a better version of themselves. As Christians, God promises us something so much better.

We can ask him to help us develop habits that enable us to better live out the calling he gives us. We can develop the habit of living on mission. And best of all, we can ask the Holy Spirit to transform us not just into better versions of ourselves, but into the likeness of Jesus himself.

“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him” (1 John 5:14–15, New International Version).

If God can give us lasting transformation as individuals and as Christian communities, why would we settle for anything less?

So rather than just asking yourself what habits you want to form during COVID-19, maybe the question is: What is God ready and waiting to do in you?

More from MissionHub

For more ideas about making a habit of taking steps of faith, read one of our recent posts.

For more inspiration about how God can use this time in your life, we also recommend this powerful message from author Francis Chan.

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MORE ABOUT Melissa Long

Melissa Long serves as a writer for Cru®. As a native of Lookout Mountain, Georgia, she appreciates the deep quiet of forested mountains. Melissa currently resides on the edge of a wooded swamp in Florida with her husband, two kids and a devoted but somewhat deranged cat named Maple.