This pandemic has brought about devastating effects for many families. Job loss, depression, stress, and grieving the loss of loved ones are not minor issues. But for some families, their lives have been changed for the better.

My sister-in-law shared how staying home has been a blessing in disguise for her family. They’re so overcommitted with sports, extracurricular activities, and church obligations, they were relieved to finally have free time. Her family sat down and ate dinners together. She and her husband sat on the couch and watched a movie holding hands—for the first time in a long time.

Maybe you’ve experienced similar revelations—like how long it’s been since you really talked to your spouse. Maybe you felt a renewed sense of rest. Or maybe the lines of personal and work time have been blurred for far too long, and you see them more clearly.

AJ Shankar, CEO and cofounder of Everlaw, predicts this pandemic will have lasting impact on societal work environments for the better. By normalizing working from home, he says people will challenge the “always available” mindset. “For employee-friendly companies, evening hours will ultimately revert to family or personal time, as they should.” (Read “All the Things COVID-19 Will Change Forever, According to 30 Top Experts.”)

Sometimes bad circumstances bring about future good. The Bible is certainly replete with examples of how God uses suffering to make life better—for example, the stories of Job, Joseph, Paul, and Jesus.

And isn’t that the hope of Romans 8:28? “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

Changed for the better—making it stick

When I chatted with my sister-in-law and heard all the ways her home life has been changed for the better through the coronavirus, I wondered how they’re going to keep these changes when the “new normal” is over. Will she and her husband be able to say “no” when the commitments come calling again? Will they know how to protect the rediscovered family time?

Our conversation inspired me to identify ways our lives have been changed for the better and some ideas to, hopefully, help make them stick. Here are five good changes I think we’d all like to hang on to.

1. We’re no longer overinvolved and overcommitted.

Maybe you can’t wait to get back to the ball games and dance recitals. Some families thrive and connect through these events. But if you find yourself woefully dreading the day sign-ups begin, it’s probably time for reevaluation.

Remember, it’s OK to say “no.” You don’t have to be the coach or snack-shack volunteer every season. Let yourself sit on the bench and cheer! Or if you can’t stand the thought of missing out, scale back your role. If you’ve coached the swim team multiple years in a row, let someone else have a turn while you fill a supporting role.

2. We have extra family time.

If you’ve found yourself longing for this kind of family connection all the time, rest assured it is possible (even during life as usual). Family memories can happen more often than the yearly vacation or occasional birthday party.

One way to continue the pandemic fun is to choose one night a week to have family night. It’s not important what you do together—serve popcorn and watch a movie, play a game, make a fire and roast marshmallows. But if family connection is going to make it into your post-COVID life, it has to be planned. Once it’s on the calendar, guard it. When someone asks if you can volunteer that night, say, “I’m sorry, I have plans.”

3. We’ve enjoyed extra connection with our spouses.

Like family time, if you enjoy more eye contact, physical touch, and your spouse’s company, you have to be intentional to keep it going. My husband and I have a weekly date night on Friday. This is actually something the pandemic has taken away from us, and we can feel the toll it has taken on our relationship.

During normal life circumstances, couples are prone to have conversations with their heads down, usually while looking at a phone or computer screen. Television often fills the room with sights and sounds, replacing human interaction. And community and church commitments, work schedules, even plans with friends and extended family all come between couple connection frequently.

If you’ve enjoyed the change to quieter times of connection, don’t let it get away from you. Put a regular event on the calendar just for your spouse. Like family time, couple time won’t magically appear after the quarantine. You have to plan for it if it’s going to survive the barrage of needs in the coming months.

More help navigating this new COVID-19 normal

4. We’ve discovered a sense of contentment.

Much of our time and money is spent shopping. One statistic shows approximately two-thirds of the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) comes from retail consumption. One of the lessons I’ve learned from quarantine is I can scratch my itch for “something new” without spending money. Creativity goes a long way. By making something myself, it gives me a sense of accomplishment.

“Shopping” at home has also helped. Before I go online to buy, I look around the house to see if I have a suitable substitute. I have things in closets and hiding in the garage I didn’t even remember I had!

Learning to live with what I have has saved us a lot of money. By continuing with this change after stores reopen, we’ll reap the financial benefits in the long run.

5. The elephant in the room has become unavoidable.

Many couples have perfected a dance around all the elephants lingering in their homes. It’s a lot easier to avoid them when everyone is coming and going. But lock everyone in the same house, and suddenly those elephants start stepping on toes.

Some homes may feel like they are in the midst of a stampede. Even though at times it may feel like you won’t survive, addressing those big issues actually gives your relationship longer life. Yes, it hurts. Yes, it will take some healing. But conflict resolution and communication are essential skills only learned through trial by fire.

Going forward, bring up the hard topics as soon as they appear. Just like cleaning house, a regularly “cleaned” relationship will be much easier to maintain. Think of this pandemic as a new starting point from which to move forward.

Changes and lessons learned

These are just a broad overview of some of the big changes and lessons I’m learning through the quarantine. Let me encourage you: Evaluate your own life and look for how God has let your life be changed for the better. Give Him thanks for His provisions and the insights you’ve received.

Going through the COVID-19 pandemic has been difficult, but it has much wisdom to offer if we will learn from it. Proverbs 27:12 says, “The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it.”

I don’t want to be foolish and not apply the knowledge I’ve gained about life. Let’s all allow God to use this situation to make our marriages and families stronger.

Copyright © 2020 by Sabrina Beasley McDonald. All rights reserved.

Sabrina Beasley McDonald has been writing about God’s plan for marriage and family for over 19 years. Sabrina holds a Masters in Marriage and Family Counseling from Liberty University. She is the author of several devotional books, including Write God In Deeper: Journal Your Way to a Richer Faith.