Over the past few weeks, our nation has been gripped in the fist of something called COVID-19. Obviously, unless you have been under the weather and have hidden with your head in the proverbial sand, you are well aware of the issues of this very contagious virus.
But this world-wide experience has brought with it a whole new vocabulary, and one term in particular has caught my attention. This term is used almost constantly when speaking about anything. The news media has made a lot of to-do about it. It is the phenomenon called “social distancing”.
“Social distancing” has had widespread impact in almost every area of life. It has resulted in the closure of schools and businesses.
Colleges and graduate schools have moved to an entirely on-line educational environment, not to mention secondary and even elementary schools doing the same. Businesses are encouraging employees to do more of their work from home rather than joining together in a closed office environment. Restaurants and other businesses are attempting to change the ways they do their business, particularly in light of the need for the six-foot separation between individuals.
Where we are living, the average age of the population is somewhere in the “elderly” category and these individuals have been singled out as the most susceptible to contracting this virus. Therefore, most of the businesses are closed and all of the community activities (and there are many of those!) have been cancelled. And yes, even churches are being forced to creatively modify their worship services and large gatherings.
For example, the church we attend has suspended all indoor corporate worship services, opting to have outdoor services only, and who knows how long those will continue. All of our small group activities have for now been curtailed. “Social distancing” has changed the way we live – at least for the time being.
But there is a factor that concerns me more than “social distancing”. It is “spiritual distancing”!
It would be very easy for each of us to somehow blame God for this global pandemic crisis call coronavirus. Or to just simply ignore Him.
But I believe this is a call for us to draw near to God. The Bible even encourages us to draw near to God and wash our hands! (See James 4:8-9).
David Livingstone was a missionary-explorer who traveled to Africa to take the good news of Jesus to the people who lived there. As he trekked up the Zambezi River there, he beheld the beauty of the scenery and marveling at the elephants, the giraffes, the buffalo and the stately lions, along with all the wildlife there.
But he was also acutely aware of the dangers he faced each and step of his journey – the venomous snakes, the insects, the savages, as well as the possibility of fevers and contagious diseases to which he would be exposed.
Livingstone calmed himself often by reciting and calling to mind the verse he had memorized – Matthew 28L:20. On one occasion, Livingstone wrote in his journal: “Felt much turmoil of spirit…But I read that Jesus said, ‘…and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world.’ This is the word of a gentleman of the most strict and sacred honor, so there’s the end of it. I feel quite calm now, thank God.”
He later proclaimed that these words from the Lord himself were what carried him through the thick and thin of a hostile world among people whose language he could not understand. He proudly proclaimed about those words that “they never failed”.
The powers that be in our lives may suggest that we practice “social distancing” in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but may I challenge each and every one of us NOT to include in our ”social distancing” the practice of “spiritual distancing”?
In fact, I have adopted an acronym for my life that goes right along with this – it is “COVID-19”, and it means “Christ Overcomes Viruses and Infectious Diseases – Joshua 1:9”.
And if you look up Joshua 1:9, you will discover the answer to all the fears and worries associated with this coronavirus phenomenon: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
Isn’t that a tremendous promise that you and I can take to heart? Let’s do it!
Oh, but I have one more question: What on earth is everyone doing with all that toilet paper?
Chuck Tabor is a regular columnist for the News Journal and a former pastor in the area. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.