A reflection by Sally Thompson of St Lukes
I suspect ‘Isolation’ will be the word of the year for 2020 in much the same way as ‘liquefaction’ was 2011 word of the year! We are in uncharted times where we must trust the information from our Government and isolate ourselves.
This coronavirus, like all “successful” viruses, is spreading so well because it has found a way to exploit a good part of who we are. In this case, it has found a way to hijack our social nature. Covid-19 is hijacking the basic needs of closeness and community.
This Lent, we are being forced into a strange sort of fasting from the body of Christ by being unable to meet with each other. We might notice the hunger, the absence that comes from this fast so as to appreciate it yet more deeply when, in Easter joy, we are able to gather together again. Fasting now may help us appreciate Christ’s presence in our gatherings more clearly after this has passed. It may not happen on the “official” date of Easter this year, but the rhythm of our church is that Easter joy follows Lenten sacrifice like the dawn follows the darkness of night.
We are mostly very fortunate to be able to isolate with the people we love the most, in comfortable, well equipped homes. The Easter story details so poignantly the very much more terrible isolation that Jesus must have felt as he walked his solitary journey to the cross.
I think of his isolation in the garden ‘He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”’ (Matthew 26: 37-38)
This is the plea of a man caught in the deepest emotional anguish we can imagine, reaching out for connection with others.
His plea to His Father, who was always there with him, who did not take “the cup” away as it filled with overwhelming sorrow and grief. Instead, Jesus had to hold on to it.
I think of the betrayal, the trial and crucifixion. No wonder Jesus screamed near the end, “my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Everything in that day of trauma confirmed he should feel alone, absolutely alone. The agonised cry was Jesus’ way of expressing his human feelings of isolation while reminding himself of his confidence in God’s deliverance.
While Jesus felt deserted, and was clearly in despair in crying out to God, he is still in a relationship with God. He may have felt abandoned, but he was not abandoned.
These days we will face times of anxiety, of loneliness, of disbelief it is happening, of fear of something we cannot see but is causing world-wide devastation. Even as we feel as if we may go under with the overwhelming flood of confused emotions and thoughts we can still look to Jesus, who was not always strong, impervious to the assaults of grief and desperation, but one who truly knows our weakness, suffered as we do, and empathizes with us in our pain.
When you wonder where God is, when you pray in doubt and darkness, and even when you are close to despair, you are praying to someone who is fully human and fully divine, and who understands you fully.
The Christian life is filled with strife. At times life is wonderful, and at those times we can easily see the hand of our God at work in our lives. Other times, however, life gets to be a battle just to stay afloat. We drift along, sometimes barely holding on to the hand of our Creator.
But we do hold on, and even more than that, He holds on to us. He has never let one of His children go; not one of them has ever been forsaken. We hold on to the promises that His love never fails; that His strength is perfect when our strength is gone.
We trust; we lean; we grab tight as we walk through the valleys, longing and hoping for the day of victory; for another trip to the mountain top; in which we have full confidence will one day come. We can stand tall through the painful toils, because our Healer lives and He is our refuge through every storm of life.
Question for contemplation
Was there a word, sentence, or phrase that stood out to you in what Sally shared?