By Lauren Pratt
Our world has drastically changed. Between March and April, my community in North Carolina went full swing from normal routines to a state-wide shelter-in-place order. While, yes, we should certainly be practicing social distancing and following the protective measures our officials have put in place, quarantine has stretched us emotionally, mentally and spiritually to be separated from those we care about.
As Easter approaches, I would normally be making my typical commute to see my family. Yet, these plans to see family and others I care about have been placed on an indefinite hold. Whether you live alone, have roommates or have a family, we can all agree finding community has been hard. How do we grapple with the pain that comes from this isolation, from being separated from those we love dearly? Three areas of focus can help us bridge the gap between our loneliness and the hope we have in Christ.
The Lord is present with us in suffering, even when others cannot be.
1. Allow yourself to grieve.
The reality is all of us in some way, shape and form are grieving the loss of community. Maybe it’s dinner with friends on a Friday night, a weekly church gathering, a game night with your small group or a night out at a baseball game. No matter what type of community we are missing, our Heavenly Father invites us to lean into our pain and let him take care of us. He beckons us to come to him, letting him take our burdens upon him as Matthew 11:28-30 tells us. I love the way author and pastor John Mark Comer describes this idea of the easy yoke in his book, The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry:
People all over the world, outside the church and in, are looking for an escape, a way out from under the crushing weight to life this side of Eden. But there is no escaping it. The best the world can offer is a temporary distraction to delay the inevitable or deny the inescapable. That’s why Jesus doesn’t offer us an escape. He offers us something far better. Equipment.… An easy life isn’t an option. An easy yoke is.
I love that perspective as I think about walking through this season of uncertainty. We are all experiencing a full range of emotions over circumstances that we cannot control. God promises to take our burdens and help us carry them. It’s healthy—godly even—to grieve our losses. But don’t let your grief be an end in itself. Let your grief lead you to seek the presence of the Savior.
2. Cling to the presence of our Savior.
The Bible is rich with passages that speak of the Lord’s presence with us in suffering. I experience a full range of emotions when I think about being separated from friends and family during this season—anger, sadness, discouragement. However, our heavenly Father is always near to me. Here are a couple of passages that have deeply encouraged my heart in this lately.
“The Lord is near the brokenhearted. He saves those crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18)
“God is our refuge and strength, a helper who is always found in times of trouble.” (Psalm 46:1)
As we give our pain over to the Lord, let the truth of his Word bring comfort in affliction. We’re reminded that the Lord is present with us in suffering, even when others cannot be. As we direct our attention to the truth of Scripture, we are reminded of God’s preeminence in our lives in a way that our earthly community cannot be. The more we understand the presence of God throughout our day, the more we can cling to his promises and trust his sovereignty.
God isn’t limited to an hour in the morning. His presence is always with us.
We do not grieve or suffer as those without hope.
3. Remember your future hope.
The Lord has been challenging me to shift my perspective to focus on him more than on my circumstances. The growing isolation that many of us feel in quarantine is also a breeding ground for the enemy to attack us if we don’t have our guard up. It’s easy to quickly fall into self-destructive thinking in our isolation when we focus solely on ourselves and our circumstances rather than on God and his promises.
As Christians, this weekend is filled with hope as we remember the resurrection. Because of Jesus’ death on our behalf and his resurrection and power over sin and death, we are given new life in him. His Spirit dwells in us and gives us strength to walk through any present suffering we might face—not by our power, but his.
Paul expresses this in Romans 5:3-4:
And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope.
Later in Romans 8:18, Paul writes:
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us.
As we celebrate Easter this weekend, let us remember that we do not grieve or suffer as those without hope. We have a living and powerful Savior who is actively present with us in our pain, who defeated death and sin and who will have the final victory at the end of all time.