I have to confess I am getting quarantine-fatigue (yes, it’s a real thing. I have not lost my mind–yet!). Please understand me: I am glad to engage in social distancing to flatten the curve and not transmit coronavirus to vulnerable people. But I am a natural extrovert, and so I miss—even crave—the physical connection I’ve shared with my parishioners, friends, and neighbors. My world is less rich without the hugs and high fives to which I am accustomed.
However, while I do get lonely at times, the truth is, I am not alone. Isaiah 43:1-3 reminds me of God’s continual presence during this pandemic. It says, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you … When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.”
Now, although these words were originally written to bring comfort to the Israelites who were in exile in Babylon, the promise of God’s presence amidst our pain remains true today. How do I know this?
First, because of the Incarnation. The Son of God, the second member of the Holy Trinity, left the glory and splendor of heaven, came to planet earth, and took on human flesh. That’s why Matt. 1:23 states that one of Jesus’s names is “Immanuel,” which means, “God with us.” Jesus is “God with us.”
What’s more, Jesus understands our isolation, our suffering, and our anxieties. Isaiah 53:3 says that Jesus is “a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.” Ponder that for a moment. Jesus is with you and me, and he experientially and personally knows our grief, sadness, and loneliness. Because Jesus entered the full range of human experience, the author of Hebrews states, “We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses” (Heb 4:15).
The second reason I know God is with me (and us) is that God promised his presence through the indwelling Holy Spirit. Rom. 8:9 teaches that if you’re a Christian, the Spirit of God lives in you. The Spirit reminds you that you are a child of God and helps you pray, especially when you don’t know how to pray or what requests to make! How can he do that? In John chapters 14–16, Jesus called the Holy Spirit the Paraclete, which means “advocate, counselor, or comforter.” The Holy Spirit is the one who reveals God’s heart to us.
Let’s pause and process that information for a minute. The second member of the Holy Trinity came and lived among us for thirty-three years. The third member of the Holy Trinity, the Holy Spirit, literally lives inside Christians. God has come to us, God is “with us,” and within us. What a tremendous resource during these extraordinary times.
This is why the Apostle Paul could make his famous declaration, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Cor 4:8-9).
May you and I grow in our capacity to acknowledge and appreciate God’s presence, for our good, and the glory of God. If so, this pandemic may prove more beneficial than we anticipated.