It’s difficult not to focus on the things we cannot do. Every day we are reminded of our limitations and restrictions, whether it is from the news we read or just by looking out our own windows. There are less cars, less buses, and less people. Even with the reports of the lockdown easing in England and other countries across the world, there is still the strong emphasis of social distancing and extra precautions put in place to keep people safe. There will be fewer seats in the restaurants and coffee shops. There will be smaller class sizes for students. There will be fewer queue lines in tube stations and there will be longer waits for deliveries. The fact is, things will be restricted for a long time to come. And this is fair, and right, especially when considering that the outbreak is far from being extinguished.
And while this may be good practice for pandemic control, it is wreaking havoc on our psyches. We have already talked a lot in churches, and on blogs like this one, about the difficult nature of quarantine. We have talked about, preached about, and written about the fact that solitude can bring loneliness and bouts with depression. Which is true. And needs to be addressed. And there is a lot that Jesus has to say about the hard times of solitude, as well as the blessing that can come during times of prayerful isolation.
But there is something else that I have been thinking about regarding our time of quarantine. And that is the words themselves. By necessity, we talk about the things we cannot do or the things we have needed to give up. We see shop fronts with signs that declare “closed”, and we read articles about the laws and regulations that are being established to control and restrict our social interactions. We see post after post on social media about things that have been canceled: birthdays, graduations, holidays, and more.
We have all needed to make an emotional adjustment to these losses, but in the process, I believe that we have allowed certain words to settle into our hearts and minds. Words that have no business clinging to our souls. “Lockdown”, “Quarantine” and “Isolation” are words that define the pandemic, but they are not the words that define us as God’s children. We need to hear Jesus’ powerful words spoken over us once again.
In contrast to the words of the world, Jesus has spoken life over us.
In John chapter 10 verse 10, Jesus says, “The thief (the devil) comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.”
The words of the world describe all that is closed and shut and locked-down. But Jesus speaks words of Freedom.
“If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” – John 8:36
We are Free and we are Loved. We are children of the Most High God. The Apostle Paul wrote in the book of Ephesians, “We are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Eph. 2:10)
We have our identity in Christ, and we have good works that He has given us to do. There are so many things on which we can choose to place our focus.
Yes, some things are closed. But many things are “Open”. There is an “open for business” sign hanging over so many areas of our lives. It is just hard to see when we are bombarded with the things that are closed. And so it is up to us to focus on the things that give us life.
In the closing chapter of the book of Philippines, Paul writes:
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true
Whatever is noble, whatever is right,
Whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable –
If anything is excellent or praiseworthy –
Think about such things.
- Philippians 4:8
There are certain things that are happening now that did not happen regularly before the pandemic. What are those things? Focus on the things that bring you life.
For me, it has been longer mealtimes and conversations over dinner. Dinner has become my favorite part of the day. Meals and conversations are certainly still “Open”.
- It has also been longer times in prayer and studying God’s Word.
- It has been extended times to write. Not only for this blog, but elsewhere. I have had more time to reflect and write about many new subjects.
- It has been long walks and enjoying God’s good creation.
We have talked before about the power of thankfulness. It is good practice to close each day ascribing Glory to God for the things we are thankful for.
Likewise, there is power in declaring at the start of the day the life-giving things we get to do. We can choose to speak life over ourselves.
We can declare the Freedom we have in Christ. We are not “locked-down”!
We can announce the “open for business” routines we still get to practice.
We can focus on the fact that Love breaks out of quarantine and has no bounds.
Thoughts for Reflections
- Do you recognize the demonic power of speaking death over our lives? Instead, listen to the words of God, who is the author of Life.
- What are the good things that God has placed before you that give you life? What positive things encourage you just now?
- Read Paul’s letter to the Philippians. Paul, who was in prison, could have focused on the negative aspect of his life, but instead, he gave Glory to God and focused on all that was good.