Learning in a Pandemic Time

It’s safe to say 2020 has been a rough year, we in the midst of a global pandemic, uncertain when it will end. For many, it’s not just the fear of the pandemic, many are dealing with economic difficulties, depression, loss with friends and family. This year have proven that adversity can foster self-reflection and self-invention. For C.S. Lewis and his students at Oxford, their crisis was World War II.

An image of St. Paul’s Cathedral surviving the air raids during the Battle of Britain that captures the essence of C.S. Lewis’s sermon “Learning in War Time.”

In October of 1939, Europe was on the eve of World War II. Many students at Oxford deliberated about whether returning to school given the world was collapsing into all out war. C.S. Lewis preached the sermon to ease and inspire the students when they felt their time at university was unnecessary and irresponsible. Lewis rejects the basic premise of learning during war-time, because, the issue is too narrow. It is not just learning in war-time, but learning at any time our eternal destiny is at stake.

“The war creates no absolutely new situation: it simply aggravates the permanent human situation so that we can no longer ignore it. Human life has always been lived on the edge of a precipice. Human culture has always had to exist under the shadow of something infinitely more important than itself. If men had postponed the search for knowledge and beauty until they were secure the search would never have begun.

C. S. Lewis  in “Learning in War Time” 

Lewis argues that if the students and mankind wait until the time was right-no wars, crises, difficulties or emergencies- the pursuit for knowledge would never have the right timing. Vocations and professions are often conflated. There is a myth that certain careers/fields are more holy or more sanctificated; however, God sees all vocations as the same and calls people to be where they will be best for advancing the kingdom of God. Whatever we do- learning, working, volunteering, mentoring, and other activities must be offered to God.

“If we let ourselves, we shall always be waiting for some distraction or other to end before we can really get down to our work. The only people who achieve much are those who want knowledge so badly that they seek it while the conditions are still unfavorable. Favorable conditions never come.”

C. S. Lewis  in “Learning in War Time” 

Favorable conditions will never come, so we must learn and live under unfavorable conditions. No one knows when the next crisis will come; therefore, we must have faith in things to come. This really requires a fundamental shift in perspective. It crucial for our spiritual development that we develop a self control towards excitement and emotions that crises create. We must also realize that crises will create interruptions in our lives. It is hard to accept God’s plan and timing when it conflicts with our own plan and timing. Every trial and frustration I have wrestled through has made me more mature, wise and well-grounded. We learn to trust God by going through many experiences that require trust. By writing in my journal I am able to see God’s faithfulness over and over, and realizing if He did everything I asked for immediately, I would never grow and develop.

In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.

Proverbs 16:9 NIV

Many verses in scripture point to the foundational reality that God knows best and wants us to trust Him in all things and at all times. We know that God’s plan for our lives is good and He gives us hopes for certain things to happen in our lives, but He doesn’t allow us to see His plan. There are times when we want to give up especially when times are the darkest. When we accept God’s timing, we can learn to live in hope and trust Him. The verse above is a simple reminder to live by faith and enjoy our lives while God is working on our problems. This verse is a simple, yet timely reminder, that we are to live by faith in the Word of Truth, and to trust God’s judgement in all things.

World War II and COVID-19 threaten us with pain and lost. No one can escape death, it is really a matter of when; wars and disease make the death feel more real and intensify the fear of death. Christians must be relational with people through frustrations and tragedies. Jesus on the cross was aware of his immediate death and was able to stay relational with people. In all honesty, it’s less painful in the moment to pull away from people and situations then stay relational and connect with others. With the help of the Holy Spirit it is possible for me to stay relational through trials and tribulations. Honestly I feel like sometimes the purpose of some trials is to make connections or share stories with people I met during those times.

It is important to catch ourselves complaining or going into non-relational mode and step back.

Take a moment to pause

Pray to the Lord for help and re-engage realtionaly.

2021 still hasn’t been the reversal of 2020 we have been hoping for. We are still uncertain when COVID-19 will end to resume normal life. While we are dealing with uncertainty, depression, loss with friends and family it is paramount to stay relational and lean into God. Recognize our short time on Earth, develop self control and humbly submit our time of learning, working, volunteering, mentoring, and other activities to God.

Read the full sermon here

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