In just a week, life as we know it has changed significantly. COVID-19 has canceled our travel plans, shut us in our homes, and kept us from gathering with our friends and family. In this season we are fighting many things. We wage war against worry and loneliness. At the same time, many of us are finding relief from something that for so long has plagued us. For the first time in a long time we are not busy. Our calendars are not full. Our commute no longer takes hours out of our day and even if we work from home our evenings are suddenly open.
This is a season to be stewarded well. One of the great shortcomings of our Christianity in a modern world has been the total neglect of sabbath, silence, solitude, meditation, and prayer. Every year, Christians make resolutions to more deeply give themselves to their spiritual disciplines, and every year they slowly watch those spiritual disciplines get crowded out by the pressure to be productive and the ever-enslaving chains of busyness. Though we have many struggles right now, busyness is not one of them. This season will pass and this coronavirus stay-at-home-mandate will not be forever. But there are ways we can steward this time to build healthier rhythms of life that may extend beyond this time. Here are four quick exhortations to help you not waste your quarantine.
#1 Soak in the Word
The Bible is not a text book. We don’t read the Bible the same way we read a tweet, an article, or a post. We don’t just scroll through the Bible. When the Bible speaks about Bible reading it uses different language than skimming, swiping, or just even just reading. The Bible is for meditation and delight (Ps. 1:2; 20:14). It is for reviving the soul and it is to be savored like honey (Ps. 20:7-10). It is to be tasted as good (1 Pt. 2:1-3) and swallowed up into the heart (Ps. 119:11). It is a book that becomes a part of us (John 15:7) and completes our joy (1 John 1:4). By it we are taught, corrected, trained, and made complete (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Most of our Bible reading is rushed, but we now have the opportunity to soak. Use this time to memorize, meditate, and let the word of God abide in you in ways that your busy schedule has not previously allowed.
#2 Develop Your Prayer Life
Prayer is not natural. It takes practice. It takes time. It takes undistracted, and uninterrupted focus. Jesus was a master of getting away from the hustle and bustle of daily life and giving himself to concentrated prayer, but in all of our striving to be like Jesus we too often neglect this practice. At the very center of the Bible, God has given us a whole book of prayers. The Psalms are 150 prayers on a variety of topics that we can turn to for guidance as we pray. God gave this to us as a gift to help us to pray. He has given us the words to pray. I encourage you during this time to put prayer time on your daily schedule. Give yourself to praying the Psalms, praying through lists, or praying through the church membership directory. Do whatever it takes to establish this rhythm in your life right now when busyness is no excuse.
#3 Love Your Neighbor
Loving our neighbor right now looks a little different. COVID-19 has caused a great reversal of what is normally advocated for in our church. We normally encourage hospitality, frequent gatherings, hugs, and handshakes, but right now loving your neighbor means staying six feet away. It means washing your hands and taking all the precautions. But, it also means a lot more. In the coming weeks and months there will be a great deal of need – physical, spiritual, and emotional. Use this time to check on your physical neighbors. Let them know you are here to help. Utilize technology to check on church members and especially those who are higher risk. Write cards. Make phone calls. Run errands for the vulnerable. Social-distancing cannot and will not stop the great commandment and the great commission of God’s church. In fact, it may serve to showcase just how glorious the body of Christ is. This may open up doors for the Gospel of Jesus Christ in our community beyond what we could have imagined.
#4 Read Good Books
I once heard it said that what entertains us enters us. It shapes who we are. No doubt, the temptation will be strong to fill up our time and our minds with all sorts of entertainment. Shows, movies, social media, news outlets, are easy ways to pass the time, but there are ways to pass the time that will not only entertain us, but will edify us. Consider reading good books. Chase down answers to those nagging theological questions you have left unattended.
Consider reading Christian biography. The situation we are facing is unprecedented in our lifetime, but Christians have been triumphing over tribulation for 2,000 years and many of their stories have been recorded for us. Consider missionary biographies of John Paton, Hudson Taylor, or Adoniram Judson. Consider the lives of Athanasius, Augustine, Martin Luther, George Whitefield, or Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Sometimes we need to escape our present context and see the world through the eyes of a Christian who has gone before us. As the author of Hebrews says, we need to consider those who spoke to us the word of God, consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith (Heb 13:7). If you are just getting into Christian biography I highly recommend John Piper’s collection of mini-biographies. You can find free downloads of those books at the following link https://www.desiringgod.org/series/the-swans-are-not-silent. (The Camaraderie of Confidence is one of my favorites)
I know that things are difficult right now. I know that we seem to be living in a world of uncertainty. But as Christians, we have much to be certain about. God is still on the throne. He still blesses the prayers of his people. His word is still inspired and precious. The mission to make disciples is just as real as ever. The responsibility we have to love our neighbor and our church family is not postponed. May God use this time of quarantine by is grace and for his glory in our lives, churches, and communities.