NASHVILLE (BP) - Amanda Strauwald doesn't want things to go back to the way they were before COVID-19 -- at least, not when it comes to the new perspective she has on life.
In studying the story of Gideon through an online Bible study, Strauwald said she's been reminded of how the Lord shows up in difficulties and uses weaknesses.
"As COVID was stripping the world of so many of our freedoms and busyness, it was an opportunity God used to reveal idols that were in my life, slow it down, and be able to focus on the priorities of God and family," she said.
Strauwald is just one of many women who have been participating in free, online Bible studies LifeWay Christian Resources has made available during a season marked by social distancing and quarantines.
Jessica Yentzer of LifeWay Women said they've been excited by the response of those who have joined LifeWay online Bible studies during this season, and sign-up numbers have only continued to grow as the weeks of social distancing have continued.
"In a time when so many are isolated, women have been able to find spiritual community and dive into God's Word with friends and family across the country in new ways," she said. "This Bible study content, represented in these 12 online studies, has resonated in a fresh, unique way in the midst of challenging times."
Strauwald said the experience has also allowed her to grow closer to extended family and build much-needed community during a time of physical confinement. She lives in Kapa'a, Hawaii, where an ocean and several time zones separate her from family members.
"[Before COVID-19] I rarely talked with my sisters-in-law and hardly knew what was going on in their lives," she said.
But now, six family members -- her mother, sister and three sisters-in-law -- meet each week over Zoom for a LifeWay online Bible study that covers three time zones and four states.
"We come from all levels of spiritual maturity," said Strauwald. "Some of us have read the Bible for years, and some have never read the Bible. But all of us are seeking God and wanting to know Him more. It's a beautiful thing."
On the other side of the country in Bowman, S.C., school principal Glenda Westbury joined the online Bible study "Finding God Faithful" to revisit a message she heard a year ago when she lost her husband of 35 years.
"[At that time] I needed to remember God was faithful through those major life changes," she said.
One year later, Westbury said she was looking forward to finishing the school year strong and celebrating the summer with her daughters. But COVID-19 disrupted these plans and brought with it a collection of new challenges.
Westbury said current stressors have included working from home, learning new technology, not knowing if her students are safe, fed and able to learn at home, and working with parents on an entirely new platform.
"My feelings of inadequacy were some days overwhelming," she said. "This study has reminded me that in relinquishing control, I'm not defeated. In fact, just the opposite. I'm glorifying my Father by allowing Him to take what the enemy meant for evil and turning it for good and His glory.
"It was a sweet reminder that no matter what chapter I find myself in with this journey of life, no matter how good or bad it seems, God's love and faithfulness endure again and again."
LifeWay's next online women's Bible study begins June 25 and will focus on "Jude: Contending for the Faith in Today's Culture" by Jackie Hill Perry. Women can register for the online study by visiting LifeWayWomen.com.
Aaron Wilson is a writer for LifeWay Christian Resources.