Over the past few weeks, the world has changed drastically. What was once considered normal, such as spending the afternoon in the park with friends, may now be considered a criminal offence. Our way of life, work and church have all had to change and adapt in the wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic. While we can all understand the need for social distancing and isolation, it is nonetheless a significant challenge.
As Christians, how do we respond to the mass isolation and the loneliness that we and others face? Here are a few of my thoughts:
- Remember that though you may be physically isolated, Jesus said that he would never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5-6).
Despite the physical distance, we may be experiencing now; God has promised that he will not leave his children. For those facing this lockdown alone, be encouraged that though you may find yourself now spending most of your waking hours in your home isolated and cut-off, God has not and will not forsake you.
- Ask God what he may want to teach you in this time.
Often when we are busy and occupied with many tasks, we may fail to be sensitive to what the Holy Spirit may want to teach us. This mandatory time of isolation may be uncomfortable and undesirable; still, it may also be the thing that God wants to use to draw your attention closer to him and develop areas which you may not have otherwise addressed. Our God can work through unpleasant situations and bring about good (Romans 8:28), so be praying that he would open your eyes to what he wants to teach you at this time.
- Reach out to others
Why not reach out to a friend/ colleague and arrange to speak on the phone or video chat? Use this time of lockdown to strengthen your relationships and go beyond superficial. Try to be intentional, perhaps suggest a regular catch up and ask how you can be praying for the other person. For many of us, this could be a time to get to know people without the busyness and distractions of ordinary life.
- Fill up with the truth
We live in a digital age where news can be accessed 24 hours a day, and though we need to be well informed, the constant flow of headlines can be overwhelming. The Bible repeatedly implores us to read, study and meditate on the Word (Joshua 1:8; Psalm 1:2; 2 Timothy 2:15). During this time of isolation, try to replace the constant headlines with God’s unchanging truths and promises.
- Remember that Jesus also faced loneliness
Jesus is well acquainted with the loneliness: he was forsaken by his closest friends on the night of his death (Matthew 26:38-41) and even his father (Matthew 27:46), making him a high priest who can truly empathise with our struggles (Hebrews 4:15). Knowing that we pray to a God who not only understands but has experienced our troubles, we can approach him with confidence to receive the help we need (Hebrews 4:16).
How good is it to know that God understands, he is with us and will bring us through this season? I have found the words of Psalm 46 particularly encouraging during this season, whether it’s loneliness, anxiety or fear we are facing; we can find encouragement in the fact that ‘God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble‘. God is with us, and we can be confident of this unchanging truth.
For more reflections on this topic, I found John Piper’s response to the issue of loneliness in the current pandemic, really useful. I would encourage others to listen at desiring god.org.
Dr Paula Busuulwa is an FY3 trainee doctor in London