I’m writing this on March 22 and I have been in the house for six days. I have only gone out to get food or for a walk, although both of these have caused me considerable stress due to the number of people in close proximity with no regard for social distancing. They can’t be blamed though. Our government has encouraged people to go for walks.
Yesterday, the national parks of England were full to brimming and I was one of the foolish who let someone twist my arm to go for a short walk there. I knew before I left the house it would be full of people. The weather was nice and with shops and restaurants and cinemas closed, there was not much else to do.
At the time of writing, more than 300,000 people have contracted Coronavirus, with 12.944 of them dying. The UK death toll is currently at 240.
Many of the people in England are not worried whilst the rest are struggling with unbearable anxiety at the prospect of worrying about the health of our loved ones, our own health, how we will cope financially and the prospect of staying indoors for at least a possible 12 weeks, in what for some people will be toxic households. Most of mine and my parents’ generations have never faced anything like this, with the last world event having this much impact and forcing people indoors possibly being World War 2.
I’m one of the lucky ones so far. My job has allowed me to work from home since the start of the past wee. My father, an electrician and my sister, a social care worker, will both be working. Many of my friends will be working for the NHS and putting themselves at risk daily and we as a nation have never been more thankful for the NHS.
So, as Christians how should we react?
From what I have seen, Christians have differed on the spectrum of the seriousness of this situation. Some remained socializing at restaurants and attending church gatherings as long as they possibly could by stating that we should not fear and trust God. Of course, this is true, but people are worried and people are afraid and having wisdom to care about the safety of the vulnerable by staying indoors is something we are slowly learning to do.
According to predictions, we are several weeks behind the devastation Italy has seen where 793 lives were lost in one day. I pray we won’t see the same level of devastation and that God will heal our world but with social distancing effects not seen for weeks after they are put into effect, we cannot ignore the facts.
There is definitely a misplaced message that this is simply the opportunity for a holiday. This is not the case. My cousin living in Rome has told me this is exactly the way they were in Italy before they were forced into lockdown and I can see a lockdown of similar magnitude enforced in short time, only allowing us to the shop for food or pharmacy for medication as is now enforced in Italy. Yet this isn’t why I write today.
I write because ever since we were told to stay indoors, I have seen online social gatherings becoming the best way for churches and church communities to come together. With technology at our disposal, we have never had more ways to communicate virtually. I have heard from people I lost touch with years ago. While Zoom is an amazing tool to help us meet and combat depression and anxiety at this isolating time, I was taken aback at the rate at which this has been offered and the overwhelming number of requests I have received. If I wanted, I could potentially be busier now than I was in “real life” when we were all allowed outdoors.
I’ve seen more of Christians on social media than I have in a long time and the potential to stay online constantly is now greater than ever. I, for one, was foolish in believing this wouldn’t be the case. However, as I’ve been allowed the luxury of more time and asking God why this has happened, I can’t say I have an answer but the phrase “God has our attention” would not leave me be.
God has our attention now, more than ever. Yes, we have families and many will be working and trying to homeschool their children — no easy task — but will we keep up the busyness or will we allow this to be a time where we pull back slightly and come back to Jesus, in the purest and simplest way of all” without the large music band, without the large crowds, without the endless calendar of church events. Can we simply sit and be still with him? Can we cope with the silence? Or will we continue to fill it as much as we possibly can?
Don’t get me wrong. Churches do not have an easy job. Many have adapted to online services in a spectacularly admirable fashion and we should remember to support our churches if we are still receiving a regular income, but I hope we don’t miss this opportunity. Although fear has never seemed more real and life has never felt so unfamiliar, will we take this chance to remember what God is like in the stillness of our lives? We will probably never get this opportunity again and I hope I will use this as an opportunity to help others but also be more present if God wants to speak to me. I don’t want to come out of this the same.
So, will you join me? Can we go back to the heart of worship and just sit with God and listen? Can we “be still and know he is God?” I pray we will use worship to wage war against the evil of this dark time but still remember God is in control. I pray God will comfort us all and I pray we will be the people who care and remember the vulnerable in our lives – young and old, those isolated, living alone and struggling with physical and mental health. May we be the light in this time, and may God be our source in an unprecedented way in these unprecedented times. May we pray like never before, but may we also listen. May we find new revelation, new hope, new peace and new miracles.
May we not only cope in the silence but may we thrive in it. May we embrace the silence, and may we be renewed by it.
In Jesus name, I pray.