Avoid social gatherings of more than 10 people. Avoid restaurants except for pickup options. Avoid discretionary travel. So says the President’s coronavirus guidelines.
Most churches complied, and pushed some of the faithful out of their comfort zones. Whether your church attendance is a lifestyle that you enjoy or a duty according to your religion, the disruption of canceled services can be disconcerting. Pope Francis acknowledged as much when he urged Catholics, “If you cannot find a priest to confess to, speak directly with God, your father, and tell him the truth…ask for pardon with all your heart.”
Jesus offers comfort for these strange times. “Behold, an hour is coming, and has already come, for you to be scattered, each to his own home, and to leave Me alone; and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me. These things I have spoken to you so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:32-33). We, too, are scattered to our own homes by social distancing concerns or shelter in place demands.
If you find yourself alone while working or schooling from home, avoiding groups of 10 and restaurant dining rooms, or minimizing shopping trips and travel, then realize that you are not alone. Jesus’ followers left Him to face his trial alone, and yet he found comfort in the presence of the Father. When you are alone, consider it your opportunity to meditate on the Word of God and pray about what is happening in the world today. The Lord is near, and He invites you into his presence.
What does God offer in these troubling times? Peace. Jesus said that since He has overcome the world, we can have courage and peace. The peace that Jesus describes can only be experienced in times of tribulation. Said another way, when all is calm and bright, it is contentment that you feel. Peace is experienced in contrast with strife, such as when your health is threatened or your job is in jeopardy. Resisting the coronavirus and its effects is the struggle that makes your God-given peace more evident.
Why doesn’t God do something about this? Well, He did. God the Son came to earth to “overcome the world,” He said. Of all that is packed into those three words, His tone is clear. He is compassionate about your plight in this moment. He made it clear that this world is not all there is to reality, and He has prepared a place for you away from the troubles of this world.
The good news is that if you follow all the coronavirus guidelines, stay home alone, and miss some church services, you can still enjoy the Lord’s presence and His peace.