Even though people don’t like being stuck in their homes because of the COVD-19 pandemic, there can be an upside to it, Rebecca Konyndyk DeYoung said during the opening session of the 2021 January Series, Calvin University’s long-standing annual lecture series.
First, however, the downsides:
“We are facing a weary world,” said DeYoung, a philosophy professor at Calvin University in her talk titled, “Glittering Vices: Soul Care for Struggling Christians.”
“At the start of COVID,” she said, “people had the energy to bake their own bread and run virtual marathons. But they no longer want to stay on Zoom. People’s batteries are drained.”
But in this time of weariness, there are opportunities, DeYoung said, adding, “We are confronted by ourselves and how much we need grace.”
The pandemic can turn our attention to our need for God. Just as the church father Augustine says in his autobiography, Confessions, if we rely only on ourselves “you’ll only find that yourself is unreliable,” DeYoung said.
Relating some of her own experiences from graduate school, when she thought other students were much smarter than she was, DeYoung said she came to see that God was there and helped to support her in the work she wanted to do.
“I realized when God calls, he equips,” she said. “I realized how important it was to refocus from ourselves and on God’s unfailing power. Resting in the fullness of God’s love was a pattern of living that I learned.”
This is a pattern we can learn, however hard that might be, when we find—as is possible during the pandemic—that we can face ourselves full on, said DeYoung.
During the coronavirus pandemic, she added, many distractions are gone. We have time on our hands and can have the chance to discern how God is at work within us. In doing this, we can see how sin weaves into our lives and causes many problems.
“Sin is not a game,” DeYoung said, “and deep down we know it. Our own foolhardy choices lead to being trapped in our own bad habits and add up to a way of life that leaves us struggling and entangled.”
But we can pay attention to the sin that is within us by naming those sins—sloth, pride, greed, lust, wrath, envy, and gluttony, for example—and developing a way of life, bolstered by God’s grace, that roots those sins from our lives, DeYoung said.
“We are under the care of the Great Physician and can find a way to be whole,” she said, “but this takes formation. We need to open our lives to the transformation of God’s Spirit. Formation may take many seasons of change.”
DeYoung is the author of Glittering Vices: A New Look at the Seven Deadly Sins and Their Remedies. Other speakers at this year’s online-only January Series included former U.S. Ambassador William Garvelink, climate scientist Kathryn Hayhoe, and best-selling authors Jemar Tisby, Bruce Feiler, and Tara Westover.
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