This COVID19 virus is causing a lot of disruption in life isn't it? As of this writing, the government, state and federal has imposed quarantine and travel restrictions. There are restrictions on public gathering, schools is starting to close for a while and our experience is likely no different than your experience right now – a certain panic, a fear, a worry. And so when we're going through all this disruption and change its natural to ask this question - How will this end? And because we just don't know we kind of get a little uncomfortable and we get afraid. In other words, we get afraid of the unknown.
Nowadays, we live in a culture where we're not used to not knowing the answer. We live in an Information Age where we have a question we just go to Google and it gives us the answer instantly. I mean, recently I heard my two boys speak and ask our Google Home Nest about the weather and query the latest news and it will reply instantaneously. Caleb, our youngest, would then say to me, ‘Daddy, I told you Google know all the answers. I replied back ‘No, she knows facts but she does not have wisdom. I guess, that's what we need right now. We need wisdom.
You see Google can tell you that you were born on what day, but it can't tell you why you were born. It can't tell what your purpose of life is. It can't tell you what will make you happy. We live in an era where we have all the information in the world at our fingertips but we lack wisdom and discernment. Right judgment to be able to see the way God sees and then know the grace to act the way we ought to act. And so, we fall into the trap of fear. Question is… do we have a reason to be afraid?
While the answer is no and how I can say that so confidently well because if we just look to the life of Jesus and the Gospels he never gave people reason to be afraid. He never affirmed people ever in their fear. He never stood on the side of a mountain with thousands of people around him and said blessed are the fearful…for they shall inherit the earth. Or blessed are the anxious of heart for they shall be satisfied. Jesus never said anything remotely close to that. In fact, Jesus said the opposite. didn't he say ‘Peace I leave, you my peace I give to you. I don't give as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled. Do not be afraid’.
What then should be our posture? Now that self-isolation is what we now face, how do we handle our situation? Let me share three words that I hope will help.
The first word is resolution. It’s vital to take charge of the situation and not let the situation take charge of us; at the end of this we all want to be a victor, not a victim. In as much as we can, set ourselves targets and goals. Our grandparents were called to war, we are being called to sit on our lounges – we can do this!
However justified we may feel it is, don’t slip into becoming a wreck, don’t be negative or pessimistic, don’t moan. There are some people who bring happiness wherever they go and other people bring happiness whenever they go! Have a happy attitude and don’t drain people with negative talk. Resolve to be cheerful.
Keep up with personal hygiene, change your clothes, don’t sleep until midday! Find things to do, books to read. And do projects (I am writing my blogs), clean the backyards, play boardgames with the kids). Let’s tidy and de-clutter. (Remember how ‘we didn’t have time’?). Try to get exercise, even if it’s simply walking up and down the stairs or the corridor. And let’s think and act to help others who are isolated – even a phone call or Messenger, or practically to support and assist.
This is pretty much standard psychological advice but let me add a Christian dimension to this. We need to remember that God rules over all things, including viruses, and this has not caught him unawares. A little word in the first two verses of Psalm 23 has come to mind. There, in the middle of those wonderful lines ‘The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters . . .’ Although we all desire freedom and the ability to do what we want, we are like sheep and our wise Shepherd may, when it suits him, make us lie down. God has his purposes for us in this period: let’s resolve to make the most of them.
The second thing is relaxation. Now I apologise if you are stuck in a small unit with hyperactive children and relaxation is something you are praying for, but the fact is most of us will be facing a life that has shifted down a gear or two. This may well be a blessing; one of the characteristics of modern life has been its frantic pace. Many of us are familiar with the sort of situation in which you come across a strange person in the hallway and realise that it’s a member of your family. Indeed, you may well have said as you frown at your twentieth email of the day over your morning coffee, ‘the pace of life is killing me’. Why not consider that, in this self-isolation, God is gifting us with a slow-down? In the long run it may well be the reality – and I pray that it is – that these days of self-isolation end up adding months, if not years, to your life. Our great Shepherd has slowed down life and given us time: time to pray, to read the Bible. To have those conversations with your loved ones, to send out those emails that you never got round to. To relax!
The third thing is reflection. Isolation should give us the opportunity to think about who we are and what we are doing. For a brief moment, the endless stream of traffic on the motorway of life is stopped and we’ve got the opportunity to think about where we are going. While it’s not the moment to peer into the rear-view mirror of life and reflect gloomily about our failures and disappointments, it is a good time to look forward and to think about what we value and what our purposes are. In many accounts from ex-soldiers we often hear or read something along the lines of ‘what I saw and experienced in the war changed me; I made a promise that, if I got out of this, I was going to do something with my life’. What a perceptive thought on how most people live life! Why not spend time thinking and praying, not about how unpleasant things are now, but how, once this is all over – and one day it will be – we are going to live our life in a different way.
Replace you fears and anxiousness to an attitude to resolve, relax and reflect; and may we find our period of isolation to not be a burden but a blessing.