“The internet stopped working again. Whose fault was it this time? How am I supposed to get work done when everyone keeps unplugging my internet?” These were the thoughts going through my mind as I was working in my new makeshift basement office. It was already frustrating that I had to quickly adapt to this new work-from-home set up but to have my internet keep going out in the middle of meetings was frustrating. And this time was the last straw.
I would like to say it was at this moment that I realized how much I was overreacting, but it wasn’t. I proceeded to walk up the basement stairs and let my wife know, in no uncertain terms and in no uncertain volume, just how frustrated I was about this disruption to my productivity.
I See My Sin More Clearly
Being quarantined these last few weeks has not made me an angrier person, but it has highlighted just how much I want things to go my way. Life is not convenient right now and I am seeing just how much I expect that it should be.
The biblical counselor’s go-to verses on conflict tell it like it is:
“What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel.” James 4:1-2
And what I wanted was for my internet to work when I was in the middle of a video chat. Actually, what I really wanted was to have everything work exactly as I hope it will work without any disruptions, all the time! Being under quarantine is exposing to me the reality of my extreme selfishness, down to the fact that I want every aspect of life to serve me and make my life more convenient.
I wasn’t becoming angrier, but I was seeing displayed how things really were in my heart when my conveniences were stripped away. I was getting angry more often because the things I wanted were being taken away from me on repeat.
And it was really starting to feel like I was in a rut. Frustrations were beginning to pile up and it was my wife who was hearing about it the most.
The Scripture Models How I Should Respond
The tendency in all of us, when we feel the pressure of not getting what we want, is to get frustrated with those around us. But when we see that kind of response come out of our hearts, we should realize that God is being gracious with us to reveal an area to grow in.
James 4 is God’s gracious way of showing us how to self-diagnose our heart-level problems when we see our behavior-level problems. And not only that, but he is even more gracious to give us the remedy for dealing with those problems.
It was time for me to revisit what Scripture had to say about how to handle my struggles in quarantine.
Take Inventory of Your Heart
“But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.” James 4:6-10
In these five short verses, James links our self-centered focus to a heart of pride and warns us that God is adamantly against the proud, but gracious to the humble. He lists out seven commands and offers three distinct promises that will be fulfilled by God as a result of our obedience to those commands.
|1. Submit yourself to God||The Devil will flee from us|
|2. Resist the Devil|
|3. Draw near to God||God will draw near to you|
|4. Cleanse your hands||The Lord will exalt you|
|5. Purify your hearts|
|6. Be sorrowful for your sins of pride|
|7. Humble yourself|
I had, according to James, loved my desires more than God and had committed spiritual adultery against God. This was no longer a major inconvenience to my productivity; it was a significant sin against God that needed to be repented of. Working through these verses, I can’t help but see that what I wish I had done was to start working through this process before I walked up those basement stairs. But I didn’t, and as a result, I needed to reconcile with my wife, kids, and God for making my desires fundamentally more important than loving God above all things.
Scripture reminds us that we need to look at the heart motives behind our words, attitudes, and behaviors. Quarantine reminds us that we need to revisit whether we have made certain comforts and conveniences so important in our lives that we are willing to sin in order to get them. In other words, quarantine is God’s gracious way of exposing our sins, so that we can repent of them.