How to adjust to change during a pandemic

Sudden moves or job losses are opportunities to shepherd our families

November 23, 2020

I’ll never forget April of 2020. As a result of COVID-19, my employer cut their budget, and I lost my job. I was shocked, confused, and hurt. And I had to figure out the next step for our family. First, we sat the kids down to inform them I’d lost my job. I thought it was going to be this big teachable moment about trusting the Lord in all circumstances, but it wasn’t. After I broke the news, my eight-year-old daughter Liv, who absolutely loves animals, responded with hope and confidence, “Daddy, this is great! You can now be a zookeeper!” I wanted to teach, but instead my daughter taught me to smile at the days ahead.

Since then I’ve been learning how to lead my family through a job search and a move across the country from Kentucky to Arizona. I am no more of a teacher than I was the day we shared the news with our children, but I hope some of the lessons we’ve learned will encourage others who face a job change or move during these “challenging and unprecedented times.”

Limitations are invitations

It’s important to realize that leaving a place you love and have come to know well, a place where you’ve put down roots, a place you call “home,” is not easy. Then, when you add a global pandemic into the mix, you get a concoction of difficulties. How do you say goodbye to friends when you can’t have a big going away party? How do you find new friends in a new town when it’s still not fully normal to hang out? How do you find a new church when gathering in person and dropping off the kids at a children’s ministry is irregular? It’s hard! So be kind to yourself. 

And be aware of yourself. Moving during a pandemic will confront you with your limitations. I’ve had to learn to be okay with what I can’t do and what doesn’t turn out the way I want. Losing my job, finding a new job, and even saying goodbye to friends in less-than-ideal circumstances were invitations to the good—to faith, humility, hope, and greater dependence on Christ. Without a growing awareness of my limits, my attempts to lead my family through our move would have come from an unresourceful place. 

Grieve your losses and balance the scales 

They aren’t the same as losing a loved one, but losing a job, changes in relationships, and leaving a place you call home  are losses to be grieved. When we don’t learn to grieve appropriately, applying the Bible’s vision of life to our losses, then we create long-lasting wounds in ourselves and those around us. 

It was important for me to make space, both for myself and for my wife and kids, to process this unexpected loss. This is especially important right now, because pandemic life tempts all of us to push away our emotions. I am no expert in grief care, but here are two principles I’ve learned: 1) Be known and 2) Balance the scales

When I say, “be known,” I mean simply allowing yourself or your loved ones to share without the pressure of finding solutions. Surround yourself with people who will acknowledge the sadness and empathize with you. We were careful to do this with our kids, knowing their little minds would have trouble grasping such swift changes. We made certain to engage any comment like, “I’m going to miss my friend” or “I miss Kentucky.” We made sure to tell them it was okay to feel this way and that they weren’t alone. One great follow-up question to ask when you hear something like that from your kids is, “Can you tell me more about that?” Then, just listen and affirm. It’s important for our children to hear from us that their emotions are welcome. That doesn’t mean we’re affirming all their reactions to their emotions, but we want them to feel safe sharing their emotions with us. This makes room for the teachable moments and gospel conversations that balance the scales.

I’m indebted to Scott Swain for the “balance the scales” metaphor. As Swain explains, we aren’t seeking to remove difficult emotions, or “weights in our loved ones’ hearts, but we’re seeking to offer counterweights—consolations that enable their hearts (and our own) to bear the burden of sorrow, anxiety, and fear in this vale of tears (Ps. 84:6) “until we arrive at our destination of unmixed, unshakeable beatitude in the presence of the triune God (Ps. 84:4).” During our move, I saw my father-in-law model what this is like. As strange as it might sound, one of my wife’s biggest losses in moving from Kentucky to Arizona was leaving behind the changing seasons with their beautiful tree foliage, fall festivals, and spring showers. (If you’re scratching your head, try moving to Phoenix when it’s 115 degrees outside and then we’ll talk.) After listening to Juli talk abou this loss, my father-in-law—who knows his daughter well—offered a profound counterweight. He simply said, “This will be an opportunity for you to see the beauty of God’s creation from a different perspective.” The truth of his kind perspective is still bearing fruit. 

Don’t go it alone 

Friendships are perhaps the most meaningful of relationships in the Christian life. In Christ, friendships can have a profound impact on our souls that anchor us to our true north. Though one loses friendships in the physical sense when moving to a new place, there is consolation in the hope of new friendships that await in the new home. The hardest part of moving for our family was the way COVID-19 robbed us of a rightful goodbye and has slowed the creation of new friendships in Phoenix. But we’re not letting this stop us from pressing into our friendships, both old and new. In fact, our friends have been a sustaining grace in this transition. Here are five thoughts on how to approach friendships during a move.

  1. Close the loop with old friends the best you can. Make it a priority to see your closest friends and say goodbye face to face before you leave town. You won’t regret it. Even in a pandemic, when you or your friends may be following strict social distancing guidelines, find a way to have a distanced air hug, or schedule a multiple-day drive-by event and sit in your yard while your friends wave goodbye. You might feel vain, but do it anyway. They need it, and you do too.
  1. Keep the community you have until you find the new one you need. I don’t mean you’ll ditch your old friends when you establish new relationships (we cherish our Louisville friends!). But there is a depth of friendship that is best maintained in proximity.  But until new friendships can be established, you’ll need to lean on your existing friendships back home. Allow those friends to edify your soul while you wait—perhaps longer than usual during a pandemic—to establish new ones. Schools and other institutions are relying on not-so-ideal ways of maintaining human connection in this season, and that should be true for a family who moves during the pandemic as well. Juli and I have made time regularly to text, call, or video chat with friends from Louisville to cry, confess sin, repent, and rejoice. Embodied friendship is essential and ideal, but in the midst of such abnormal change God’s common grace has allowed us creative ways to move forward by looking back to the relationships that have carried us this far. 
  1. Say yes to everything when you get to the new place. Well, maybe not everything, but my point is get out and meet people. Embrace the awkwardness of wearing your mask out to events with your new job or school parent functions—even if your child’s emotions from moving come out sideways at times and embarrass you. It’s important to move forward and discover the new, sweet friendships God has prepared for you.
  1. Try to visit churches in person if it is safe. Singing spiritual songs and hymns and hearing the Word preached in person is the greatest balm your family needs in what may be your loneliest hour together. Plus, it’s a great way to make new friends. You’ll breathe life into a local congregation by your ability to visit during this season, and they’ll breath life into you as you impart spiritual gifts to one another (Rom. 1:11–12). 
  1. Enjoy extended family time. One of the great surprises for us during our pandemic move was that our schedules opened strangely wide. Because we didn’t know many people and didn’t have many places to be, our family tasted a sweet time of togetherness, the kind we’ve only reached previously during family vacations. Our family has noticed a renewed sense of our identity as the Gibson’s since we’ve moved to Phoenix. It’s come through braving mountain passes, running errands, and through just being together at the house. If you find yourself in the midst of a move during COVID-19, let me encourage you to be present with your family and see your limited social life as a gift and blessing. 

Longing for our abiding city 

As I close, think back with me to Scott Swain’s analogy of “balancing of the scales.” One go-to counterweight I’ve tried to put before myself and my family is the hope that we’ll someday live in an eternal city with our family in Christ. Augustine says it so beautifully: “Who would not long for that City whence no friend goes out, whither no enemy enters?” (Augustine, Exposition of Psalm 85). 

As our family has experienced the highs and lows of moving to a new city during the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve sought to press into the grace upon grace offered to us by our good Father. We press in, we process, we share, we cry, we laugh, we confess, we repent, and we struggle forward. We do so hoping for that better city—a real place where all our friends in Christ will be. It will exist without any evil or enemies; pandemics will be no more. And we trust that any homesickness we’re experiencing now while we get used to this new earthly city is a tool in God’s hand to make us ready for that perfect and eternal home. 

Kody Gibson

Kody Gibson (M.Div., The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) lives in Phoenix, Arizona, with his wife and three children. He serves as Director of Enrollment and Communications at Phoenix Seminary. Read More

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24