Who knew a retired Navy SEAL could teach us so much about the Bible?
If you’ve never heard of Jocko Willink, then, in advance of your reading the rest of this post, I’ll just say “Your welcome.” Jocko Willink commanded SEAL Team 3’s Task Unit Bruiser, who fought in the battle of Ramadi and became the most decorated unit in the Iraq War. His Tedx Talk has been viewed 3.5 million times. I’ve listened to his book, Extreme Ownership, several times.
But you don’t need to watch and read those (yet). Just watch the following 2-minute video. Then, I’ll apply it to this coronavirus pandemic and quarantine.
When I first saw this video, I was struck by how familiar it sounded. Although Jocko doesn’t profess to teach the Bible, his perspective in this video is extraordinarily Christian. In his own way, he is articulating much of what Paul says in Romans 8:28.
What’s “Good” in Romans 8?
People have long seen Romans 8 as a beacon of hope; yet, we should be clear about the context if we’re going to appreciate what Paul says. For example, Romans 8:16–18 says,
The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
He then speaks of creation’s being in bondage (8:21), groaning (8:22), and “eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (8:23). Much of their suffering would have been unjust or seemingly inexplicable. Finally, he refocuses their attention:
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28).
Could there be something “good” about suffering, bondage, and groining? Apparently so. Remember what Paul says in Romans 5:2–5? He writes,
…we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame,… (Romans 5:2–5)
Why does Paul rejoice (Greek: boast) in suffering?
What Do You Mean By “Good”?
Christians familiar with Romans are best equipped to grasp Jocko’s message. He is fond of telling leaders, “If there’s a problem, it’s your fault. Own it.” What does he mean? In Extreme Ownership and on his podcast, he consistently makes this point:
Even if you didn’t directly cause the problem, you are responsible for how you will deal to it. Own it.
Let’s be clear. This is a man who has seen much death. Every day in Iraq was a fight for life and death. Not getting certain equipment or training could mean the difference between returning home and families losing a loved husband and father.
He’s not flippant. Rather, he knows a little bit a what Paul knew. Amid bad and unspeakable evil, there is opportunity. In Discipline Equals Freedom, he says,
Now, I don’t mean to say something trite; I’m not trying to sound like Mr. Smiley Positive Guy. That guy ignores the hard truth. That guy thinks a positive attitude will solve problems.
It won’t. But neither will dwelling on the problem. No. Accept reality, but focus on the solution. Take that issue, take that setback, take that problem, and turn it into something good. Go forward. And, if you are part of a team, that attitude will spread throughout. (p. 60)
What’s “Good” about Coronavirus & Quarantine?
You have to work from home? … Good. You have less of a commute. You have more time to exercise, read your Bible, or just get stuff done.
You’re stuck at home with stir-crazy kids? … Good. You have a chance to hang with your family more and engage kids who are more attentive than ever to interact with you.
Your kids won’t have the AP credit or extracurricular activities needed for college? … Good. Now they have a chance to get outside themselves and get creative to find projects that serve the family or their neighborhood.
You’re losing income from work? … Good. You can learn both gratitude and to live more simply, breaking certain habits that cost a lot of money.
You aren’t sure if you’ll have enough savings? … Good. This is an opportunity to show generosity like the impoverished Corinthians who begged him to take part in the relief of the saints in Jerusalem (2 Cor 8:3–5).
Your spouse is at risk because they work at a hospital? … Good. They have the skills and ability to love people and make an impact on the front lines of this pandemic.
A loved one has fallen sick to COVID19? … Good. You get to show them the love of Christ, serving them in unique and profound ways, willing to risk becoming sick as you meet their needs.
You have coronavirus? … Good. You will learn humility, that we are mere dust, and to receive grace from God and others.
Anxious about an uncertain future? … Good. We have the chance to magnify Christ by applying 1 Peter 5:6–9, where Peter says,
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.
That’s it. When things go bad: Don’t get all bummed out. Don’t be surprised like something strange were happening. Don’t get frustrated. No. Just look at the issue and say: “Good.”
If you can say the word “good,” then guess what? It means you’re still alive.
It means you’re still breathing. And if you’re still breathing, that means you’ve still got some fight left in you.
For previous posts on the coronavirus, check out…