Loneliness and isolation continue.
We’ve worked at home for months.
We’re again juggling our jobs while facilitating our kids’ online schooling sessions.
We face daily decisions about what precautions to take and when to take them. (We wear masks when we leave home. We wash our hands after we get home.)
We struggle to get in God’s Word. (Quiet times were hard before the pandemic, now they are even harder.) We attend a socially distanced church, out on a lawn, in scorching hot weather.
Netflix is a constant companion. (What did you binge watch this summer?).
And of course, don’t forget—work meetings, Bible studies, and family hangouts now all happen through Zoom.
This is, sadly, life in a pandemic.
In this unusual season, many of us suffer from pandemic fatigue. We’re apathetic. We trudge through a relational and spiritual malaise. It’s hard to get enthusiastic about another day of staring at a screen, church services with social distancing, or putting together another puzzle. Life has lost its spiciness and tastes more like bland soup.
The Gift of Presence
If you are a people-lover, you’ve spent much of your life getting energized from time together. Being in a crowd felt wonderful. It brought life to you. It made you feel invigorated. Understandably, months upon months, upon months of social distancing have been hard. Maybe even brutal.
Are you tired of doing relationships through a screen? A friend told me, “I can’t do another Zoom call. I just can’t stand it anymore.” Life feels superficial when it’s (mostly) limited to a screen.
Let’s give this a name. Let’s call it: ZOOM-itus.
Unofficial definition: A weariness of connecting with people through a screen.
There’s a natural hunger to connect with friends in person. Another friend said to me, “I’d much rather see you for a socially-distanced walk than stare at you on a screen again.” Just a semblance of being together is far better and much richer than another screen session.
God designed our relationships. Being together—being in each other’s presence—is a vital ingredient for life. In the garden of Eden, the Lord didn’t set up paradise with Adam and Eve connecting through a screen. He put Adam and Eve together, in person, with the gifts of fellowship, conversation, nonverbal communication, and intimacy (Genesis 2:15-25).
You’ve probably taken this for granted in the past. Being together—hanging out with your friends, attending church and sitting right next to people, giving a friend a handshake or a hug, meeting with your small group, going in person to your office or school—used to be a normal way of life, prior to March of 2020. But that’s all been stripped away.
Never again will we take relational presence for granted. Permanently superficial relationships feel like death, not life. Why is that? It goes against God’s design for the universe. Relationships (not technology) are a key part of healthy, godly living. I need you, and you need me. That’s how God set up his universe. The Lord has written a craving for relationships into your DNA.
We need family, friends, neighbors, and most important, our church community (Matthew 12:46–50). We feel this much more acutely now, months into a lonely pandemic.
A Greater Gift of the Lord’s Presence
Our longing for personal connection claws at our hearts and we’ve grown disenchanted with social distancing. Yet, our God-given drive for relationship points us even deeper. Our longing for intimate connections directs us to the source of our deepest need—the presence of our heavenly Father.
Here’s what the author of Hebrews tells us:
Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.~ Hebrews 10:19–22 (ESV)
In Hebrews 10, the author says we can have confidence to enter into God’s presence because of Jesus’s shed blood. On the Day of Atonement, the high priest would enter into the holy of holies, and the people would be left on the other side of the curtain. There was a barrier between the people and God. But when Christ died, the curtain was torn (Matthew 27:51), and a way was opened up for us to enter into God’s presence.
Does God’s presence matter to you? Admittedly, for some, the thought of going before an invisible God is not very enthralling. Yet, the Holy Spirit makes God’s presence real and tangible by lifting blinders off our eyes and igniting God-centered affections in our hearts.
Hebrews 10:20 says a “new and living way” has been “opened up for us.” This is a “new way” because this didn’t exist prior to Christ’s coming. It’s not just “new” but also a “living” way. When you read Scripture, it’s not just words on the page of an ancient book. The Bible is living and active (Hebrews 4:12), and it introduces us to the living God (Hebrews 3:12; 9:14: 10:31; 12:22).
Unlike our present social disconnect from each other, our connection with our living God can never be lost or taken away. This is our unchanging anchor in the middle of all types of suffering and trial.
God is living, and his Word is active, even as you face a lonesome pandemic. The Lord has not forgotten you. Our living Lord invites you into his presence because of his beloved Son.
If You Are Struggling with Pandemic Fatigue, Cling to Christ
Don’t simply fill your relational cravings with socially distanced walks. That’s a good start, but that’s not enough. There is more to life than just hanging out with your family and friends.
Christ shed his blood so that you can run into his Father’s presence. Jesus is your high priest, and he is seated the right hand of the throne of God, in the heavenly temple (Hebrews 8:1; 10:12; 12:2). As your Savior (Acts 13:23), advocate (1 John 2:1), friend (Matthew 11:19), mediator (Hebrews 9:15) and intercessor (Hebrews 7:25), Jesus welcomes you.
Have your devotional times felt a bit cold and drab in this season? Every time you open up the Bible, expect God to speak. Not in an audible voice, but by the Spirit, bringing life to Scripture’s words, offering you Jesus, God’s one and only Son.
Have you struggled to pray? Jesus stands in heaven, interceding on your behalf (Hebrews 7:25). Take comfort from the fact Jesus is praying for you. And when you don’t know what to pray, remember also the Holy Spirit will intercede for you (Romans 8:26–27).
When we run to Christ, we enter his Father’s presence. Don’t wait any longer. Right now, while you suffer through pandemic fatigue, you can go before the Father through his Son’s shed blood. The Lord will walk with you through this lonely season. And as he does, you will grow closer to him. Your hope, and my hope, is that in God’s presence, we can find comfort, and even joy (Psalm 16:11).
ON GUARD: PREVENTING AND RESPONDING TO CHILD ABUSE AT CHURCH
In On Guard, Deepak Reju examines why child predators target churches and offers eleven straightforward strategies to protect children from abuse and to help young victims recover if it does happen.