REFLECTIONS & ENCOURAGEMENTS: understanding and growing through the covid-19 challenge.
REFLECTIONS 2: Self isolation need not be isolating!
I wonder how you are going with the enforced isolation? This ‘cabin fever’ should not surprise us since we are social creatures. This is evidenced by the whole range of relationships that God has so kindly given us (marriage, friendships, neighbours, siblings, parents, fellow citizens, work colleagues, shop keepers, caring people-professionals and mates, tradies, advisers, teachers, students [I expect after a while teachers will miss their students!], acquaintances, and the list could go on.
There are many, through no fault of their own, who have already been schooled in social isolation, along with some who have chosen it, but they and we, who are used to many daily encounters, may need to make special efforts to cope, indeed thrive, in what is being described as ‘the new normal”. Here are some ways, that the old normal ways of discipleship, might benefit us and others.
(i) The disciplines of what was once called the “quiet time” (personal Bible reading and prayer) keep us in touch with our gracious Father, who alone is able to fully understand and be with us, every hour, anywhere and in every circumstance. The great old hymn “What a friend we have in Jesus” reminds us of how much “peace we often forfeit and what needless pain we bear, all because we do not take it to the Lord in Prayer”. A by-product of prayer is that we can travel to other nations, and homes, without being concerned about social distancing! Today I had the joy of visiting Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Jordan, Egypt, NSW, Victoria, Queensland, Bulgaria and Uganda. No expense and no fear of the virus. We are never isolated from God and others when we take in God’s word and pray.
(ii) The telephone, email, letters and zoom give us wonderful opportunities to say “hello, how are you going/feeling, coping?” Here is a way of imitating Jesus (Who has been described as God’s love letter to humankind) by taking the initiative and moving toward others. Here we are able to fulfil, at least in part, our responsibility of showing the practical love our Lord spoke of in Matthew 25:37-40 and proving His promised blessing of Acts 20:35. Of course this may open us to some costly actions like buying and delivering some food etc. but there has always been a cost (as presently for our nurses, doctors, shop assistants, police, PM and garbage collectors) to real love (as with the Samaritan of Luke 10 and the faithful of Hebrews 13:13 who opened themselves up to sharing prison through identification and the unexpected but real blessing of entertaining angels unaware.
(iii) Perhaps the most important ministry and discipline that we must continue, or establish if we have become neglectful, is that of praying for the conversion of others and being prepared to speak to them about their commitment to Christ. The immediate epidemic is serious but nowhere near as serious as ‘dying suddenly and unprepared’ by not trusting Jesus as Lord and Saviour. Jesus warnings, promises and gracious prescriptions in Luke 13:3-5; Matthew 7:13-14; John 3:16-18,36, 6:35-40, 10:7-18, 27-30 remain true, as does the minimum expectation about our testifying, commended in 1 Peter 3:15 ‘but in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.’ Our respect for our friend’s eternity requires us to not confuse gentleness with fear. A W Tozer wrote ‘that a scared world requires a fearless church’=each church member (quoted by Will Graham in a letter from the Billy Graham Association 31/3/2020).
It has been said that ‘man’s extremity is God’s opportunity’. Here is our opportunity to not only overcome our own isolation (and fear) in time, but through prayer and kindly concern, seek to introduce others to the Saviour, whose own chosen isolation from His Father, which we will recall again on Good Friday (Matthew 27:45-46), was for the purpose that no one should ever experience isolation from God, either now in time or for eternity.
Peter Brain April, 2nd, 2020