I write this during our fourth week of school closures here in Santiago, Chile. Our region is about to enter its third week of formal quarantine, which means we can only leave the home under the strictest conditions (formal quarantine restrictions began in Chile on 26 March).
Our family of five are trying to work out how to learn, play, work, rest and minister from the confines of our apartment. It has not been easy and is certainly not how I envisioned spending my March, April, May… And yet I’m thankful to God for keeping me (relatively) sane so far and with boldness I ask him for more grace to face whatever the coming weeks and months may hold. I hope you’ll be encouraged by these three gospel truths that are keeping me tethered to reality!
1. God is everywhere
My kids may not understand the word ‘omnipresent’, but they certainly know that God is everywhere. It’s such a basic Christian truth, but under social isolation it seems all the more tangible. Here in Santiago, police and military personnel patrol the streets to ensure that we stay in our homes. We must print a formal permiso if we we wish to attend a medical appointment or do essential shopping. It’s a strange feeling to lose the simple freedom of going to church or taking a walk. We’re all feeling the sting of being isolated from family and friends.
And yet no one puts the triune God in social isolation; he who is eternally three in one. Nor can anyone restrict the movement of the Creator God. So my isolation, my own confinement, by contrast remind me of the omnipresent God, who is always free to move and act according to his purpose.
I may be physically separated from my Christian brothers and sisters and my parents back in Australia, but nothing can separate me from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-39). God isn’t far away. He’s just as near as ever and I can speak with him whenever I want.
2. God is in control
I was very happy on Wednesday the 4th of March. I had just finished three long months of summer holidays with my three kids at home and the two eldest were finally returning to school. I patted myself on the back for having survived and promptly made my own plans. I signed up to the gym (paying the year in full) and got ready to restart bible studies and one-to-ones. My kids enjoyed just eight days of classes before Chilean schools closed.
Something that has become painfully apparent in recent times is that we are not in control. We are currently watching our plans, economies and collective health crumble. And yet another basic tenet of the faith sustains me in this time: God is in control.
‘Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails’ (Proverbs 19:21). God’s people have stood firm on this truth for thousands of years. It has held firm through war, famine and plague and it will hold firm throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and for the generations as yet unborn. Even though we may not understand what is going on around us, we can trust that God is in control. If we lose our job or even lose a loved one, God is in control. What a comfort it is to know the omnipotent God, especially as the veneer of human control slips away.
3. Under God, life has purpose
During these strange times I can find myself asking, “What’s the point?” Why cook another meal, respond to another email or sweep the kitchen floor for the third time today? What is life when we can’t see our friends or even go outside? It’s hard to feel motivated and productive when every day is so challenging and is so painfully the same. Sadly, I think we’ll be seeing plenty of depression and despair before all this is through.
When I sigh and feel discouraged I remind myself that under God, life is worth living. And no, it’s not because I’m trying to unlock the power of positive thinking. Life is worth living because God has made humankind the masterpiece of creation, each of us created in his image. And as fallen image-bearers, in his mercy he has brought us from death to life in Christ (Ephesians 2:4-5). We are new creations made to do the good works that God has prepared for us (Ephesians 2:10).
And so we can trust that God is working in and through our lives even during quarantine. As we go about our limited and mundane tasks, God’s unlimited power is doing extraordinary things in us. As much as I’d like to be magically endowed with supreme patience, it occurs to me that five people stuck in close quarters for weeks on end is actually the perfect environment for spiritual growth! How will God grow me through this time? What good works does he have for me? How is God working in my kids, my husband and my friends? How can I spur them on toward love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24)?
As people keep saying, we live in crazy times. And these gospel truths don’t insulate us from the difficulties of living through a global pandemic. They do, however, provide the strong foundation on which to stand at a time when everything else seems to be crumbling. So under God, let’s keep these truths in mind and keep putting one foot in front of the other.