Sitting, masked, a social distance apart in a park with friends, we were discussing the challenges of today. I have a short list of some challenges and a shorter list of answers, but here they are.
Loneliness creeps in at the best of times, but in the isolation of quarantining it is almost a guarantee. This is the time to reach out to friends and family through phone, mail, email, or the modern Zoom contact. Don’t wait and hope for someone to contact you. But also remember you are not alone.
“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20b)
Boredom is almost an inevitability when our normal outlets for stimulation are cut off. If reading has been a balm to your soul but you have run out of books, remember that the library now has a delivery service. If focusing is difficult, try reading magazines with short articles instead of long books. Get a jigsaw puzzle. Try the crossword puzzle in the newspaper. Write or email an old friend. Erma Brombeck said she had a drawer full of uncompleted handicrafts that was marked “Saved for Senility”. Get out those UFOs (unfinished objects) and finish them. Start a new project or learn a new skill. YouTube has plenty of educational videos to help.Read the Bible.
“Oh sing to the LORD a new song, for he has done marvelous things! His right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him. The LORD has made known his salvation; he has revealed his righteousness in the sight of the nations. He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel. All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God. Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth, break forth into joyous song and sing praises! Sing praises to the LORD with the lyre, with the lyre and the sound of melody!” (Psalm 98:1-9)
It is all too easy to have anxiety--generalized and specific. Our world is turned upside down. Our jobs are threatened or gone. The satisfaction of work is taken away. Income is cut. Our social lives are curtailed, and above all our health is threatened. Again, I recommend friends, family, and reaching out to fellow members of church. Casting your anxieties on God in prayer, meditation, and Bible study puts you in touch with the comfort and care of the Divine.
“Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7); “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
Finally, there is outright fear. What if I do get sick? Ask the question, as we inevitably do, and the worries and fears magnify until we can make ourselves sick with fear. We can stay safe at home, socially distance ourselves, wear masks, and wash our hands often. That is doing our part to stave off the pandemic, but we can also think about laying our heads upon a pillow and taking rest, only this pillow is God, and it is God giving you rest from fear--fear of things that have not come and may never come.
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9); “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4)
You are not alone in this challenge. We are with you. God is with you in the ever-present Holy Spirit, comforter, protector. The prayers of the whole church are with you and with each of us. You are not alone.