By the age of five Fanny Crosby lost all of her sight. She later grew up to be one of the most prolific hymn writers of the 19th century. She is known for writing songs filled with deep hope such as Blessed Assurance, Pass Me Not, O Gentle Saviour and Jesus is Tenderly Calling You home.
Upon hearing of people sharing sympathy for her early loss of sight she famously replied,
“If I had it my way I would have been blind from birth, for when I get to heaven, the first face that shall ever gladden my sight will be that of my Saviour.”Fanny Crosby
For many Christians a time in extended, indefinite quarantine carries some measure of anxiety, fear, and frustration, but like Fanny I feel that for many this is also an period in which we can share a sense of joy for what God is doing and will do with this unique time in many of our lives.
We too can use limitations on our lives for the glory of God.
1. Look carefully at how you walk
Paul the apostle instructs Christians in Ephesus to look carefully at how they walk. In a time where many of us will have more time than we anticipated months ago, this is an opportunity to ‘audit’ our time.
What would we be doing now if we weren’t given time off work? Would we be working heartily to the glory of God? Would we be on mission or ‘asleep on duty’?
This extended period of time indoors gives us a chance to answer and think through some of these questions. To assess and take stock of how we are living as exiles in a fallen world. To assess whether we live with the knowledge that Christ provides for our every need, or whether we live selfishly and in self-reliance.
To those of us who are prone to being ‘too busy to do ___’ what will our excuse be now? To those of us are prone to laziness what excuse will we have now?
We all should question too why it takes a crisis to come to our doorsteps before we have a deep passion for heaven. God is still God and what he says is true. We truly do live in a fallen world, do we have too much passion for this fallen world or do we, at all times, remember we are exiles and lives with our eyes fixed on the next world?
Equally, we should use quarantines to look carefully at what our hearts gravitate toward. It is easy to see times like these as an extended holiday. It would take no effort to spend this time on our passions (James 4:3) be it looking to catch up on our Netflix series, scrolling through our social media feeds, and filling our Amazon baskets.
We should be careful to observe whether these are our tendencies and examine, in light of scripture and community, whether they are sinful or not.
2. Walk as the wise in light of eternity and truth
Quarantines opens up amazing opportunities for extended periods of time in prayer, bible study, and reading good Christian books. For those with families, there will be more time with schools closing to do family devotions and fellowship as a family.
For those who are single this is a unique time to be able to serve others with unique needs be it the elderly, parents looking for babysitters, or colleagues. Churches will be in need of those who can help with logistics, church visits or admin. There is much we all can be doing.
Where church may move online, the temptation to spend an extra 30 minutes in bed will only grow stronger. We should make every effort to be alert and ready for the service, singing boldly, praying attentively and listening to the preaching of the word with every effort to respond in the same way we would if we weren’t at home. Check out this video from Greg Gilbert which shares the sentiment we SHOULD feel about online services.
For those who are instructed to work from home, this time can easily be a time to work without the fervour and vigour we would if we had eyes on us. But Christians do not work for the approval of men but rather unto God for it is from him we receive our reward (Colossians 3:23). We see work as a gift from him and as part of the human design. The wise in this time will keep this in mind. The wise will use this as an opportunity for Christian witness. Lord help us all to be wise in this time.
In our communities, there are ‘at risk’ neighbours (you may be one) who would be helped by Christian brothers and sisters be it delivering groceries and meals, spending time with them and or simply texting or calling them to let them know they are in your prayers. For Christian brothers and sisters where we may be far physically due to quarantines, but our blood bought union in Christ is unchanging. In such a time we can try make use of modern technology yet eagerly awaiting the time we can meet in person.
One of the elders of my church in East Asia said that his greatest fear was not people are in danger but rather than the congregation had been disbanded over the city (and world for that matter) and that now, more than ever brothers and sisters faced obstacles in attending church and fellowshipping with each other. Sheep on the far from the flock are easy pickings for the wolves. Church members who are MIA are the same.
This is a reminder for us to press into community rather than away from it. But not just to press in, in terms of awareness but in caring for each other spiritually. In a season like this prayerlessness, bible reading, and other disciplines may actually go down not up. We should endeavour to care (and be cared for) by other church members in such a way. Prioritising people’s spiritual health over careers, hobbies, financial targets, you name it, is paramount always but especially in times like this.
Keeping our mind’s active during this time will only be beneficial, home workouts, walks around the area (if you can), and setting times to do certain task keep the mind from sinking into idleness and boredom.
Idle hands may be a phrase taken from the world, but it carries biblical roots, “One who is slack in his work is brother to one who destroys” (Proverbs 18:9). None of us should be bored, in a such a period, as there is much we can be doing.
3. Meditating on truth in an age of confusion
While the world around us is slowing down and falling into deeper disarray, it is a timely reminder for us all of how futile our lives are. The days are evil indeed here and always have been. The COVID-19 virus is only another prompt for us to be reminded that our biggest enemy – namely sin and death – were defeated by Jesus and are being worked out by us daily fighting sin in our lives.
So, while as Christians, we currently live as exiles in a world filled with viruses, death, financial turmoil, closures and chaos we will dwell in the house of Lord forever and ever where there will be no tears and no trauma. This is the source of hope and the reason we can quarantine to the glory of God.
It is also a reminder for those of us who grew up in the west of the realities of the believers living in places like the Middle East and East Asia. For many, while quarantines are a new challenge, meeting together in the face of danger, restrictions on church gatherings, and the day to day resistance put in place by governments is the norm. This is a time where we can feel this pain to and endeavour to keep such churches in prayer.