Blessings in Isolation

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Last week, Tim Challies posted an article about missing the ordinary means of grace in this time of isolation. You should read it, it is good; but to summarize it briefly, he wonders if the feelings of increased stress, fear, and anxiety may be related to the absence of some of our ordinary means of grace. We were never meant to live and worship alone, so this current situation is not normal, not best, leading to increased anxiety.

I fully agree with what he says! I miss my church family, and not just on Sunday! We are very intentional about showing hospitality to others over meals and like to get together at least weekly with both long-time friends and brothers and sisters whom we don’t yet know well. That’s not an option now, and we miss it. How sweet it will be when we can again see each other, not only on Sunday at church, but throughout the week also!

But somehow, I cannot say that I am one of the Christians he mentions who are emotionally affected by this. And that’s odd. It is odd because I am naturally prone to anxiety, but I can think of a few reasons why this may be.

First, maybe here in New Mexico, the effects of COVID-19 feel distant. At the time I write this, we have only about 1400 confirmed cases. Sure, social distancing (Phrase of the Year 2020?) is in effect, non-essential businesses are closed, we mostly stay home. But my job is deemed essential, groceries are on the shelves, and we already homeschool. We want for nothing, and aside from fewer activities and hosting social gatherings, life is pretty much continuing as usual.

Second, much good has come from this isolation! Our church started a podcast. One of the first episodes discussed family worship, so we’ve decided to combine our various singing and reading times into one, more intentional, family worship time. I can already see this working out for the better, and the kids are on board and enjoying it. We are still trying to figure out how to incorporate reading fiction at night—a tradition we’ve upheld for probably close to a decade now—but I think that will come together in time.
I also started writing this blog and have so far thoroughly enjoyed it. Clarifying my thoughts this way has been good for me, and I pray that it will be helpful for others once I start publicizing it. I write mostly in the mornings (looking east, the sky is getting lighter just now), and it has contributed to making it a really sweet time for me. So while not without the usual challenges of parenting, this time has been a blessing to our family.

Finally, anxiety, at least for me, is often worse when my idols are challenged. A few years ago, trying to sell our house resulted in probably the worst period of anxiety in my life. Unexpectedly (maybe naively), it threatened our financial stability and potentially my work, shining a bright light on my idols. God worked it out in the end (he actually worked it out the whole time), but my lack of trust and fear of the future was sinful and embarrassing. I hope I’ve learned from that and grown since then. None of these things are threatened now, so declaring victory over anxiety may be premature; only God knows and time will tell. Let’s examine our hearts and be aware of our idols, and pray that God will gently remove our dependence on anything other than himself.

Tim concludes with encouragement and I want to do the same. Use this time to grow in your knowledge and practice of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22f). Start new habits you know you should have. Practice and solidify your existing habits. Pray more! Keeping our minds off ourselves (and particularly on Christ!) robs anxiety of fuel. The God who delivered his people out of slavery will also deliver his people out of these difficult times.

How has he been working in your life?