Over a ten day period and thanks to a low-grade fever in the middle of a pandemic, I have had the opportunity to dwell on the question: What does the gospel have to do with isolation? I grew up as a pastor’s daughter. As an adult, I’ve been a part of faculties at Christian schools and missionary teams. The gospel in isolation isn’t something I’ve considered.
For many, these times are marked by fear, and there are plenty of devotionals online telling us why we shouldn’t fear (trust me, I had plenty of time to read them). I don’t disagree with most of these reflections. It is true, after all, I am less afraid when my eyes are on Jesus. Often, what I hear in these devotionals, however, - though I am sure it is not the intention - is this: people who are strong in faith won’t fear. My brain instantly interprets that and applies it: when I feel fear, my faith is weak, unworthy. Usually, I go on from there to inflicting thirty lashings, punishing myself for all that I and my faith are not. Sound familiar? I don’t think I’m alone in this reaction.
In this time of isolation, I’ve learned to hear Jesus say, “Come unto me all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Isolation reminded me that God sent His Son to save sinners, that in fact He loved me while I was still a sinner. It reminded me that when I feel afraid, Jesus doesn’t say, “You fool, what is your problem? Buck up!” Instead, He reaches down and pulls me up just like He did when Peter sank beneath the waves. Isolation reminded me that it isn’t bravery, productivity, steadiness of heart that saves. It is Jesus. Truly, “In Christ alone my Hope is found.” It is only in Him that I find my all in all. I am certain that, “This is all my hope and peace, nothing but the blood of Jesus.”
During Lent, our family has been reading (now from two different rooms of the house) the devotions published by Biola University. In one write up, we were told that, “Peter reminds us to view our present circumstances in light of eternity. It’s so easy to be weighed down by our present concerns, problems, and cares, which are very real and very weighty. But Peter reminds us that these last for ‘a little while’ in comparison to the eternal reality to which we have been called and in which God will ‘perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish’ his children of faith. If we chose to focus on the present sufferings alone, we will find ourselves in the posture of ‘inconstancy’… If we can view our present questions and concerns in light of this eternal promise, we can stand in the posture of ‘fortitude'…It is not a self-induced fortitude—it comes as we stand in the power of the God who raised Christ from the dead.”
When we lack fortitude, the gospel doesn’t come to us and say, “Stop it. You shouldn’t feel that way. Why aren’t you better than this?” It tells us that the “Lamb is both provider and provision, fulsome in both suffering and joy, founder and perfecter, forerunner in the race and the one to whom the company of runners look. Rich or poor, healthy or sick, alone at home or in company, you have a race to run, and you can only endure by means of the Lamb’s provision and not your own.” The gospel doesn’t condemn us for our weakness, it reminds us of our Strength.
Faith in that Lamb, even “faith as small as a mustard seed" is enough. I don’t have to add to that traits like bravery, and I don’t have to feel ashamed when I feel fear. It is not a sign that my faith has fallen to pieces. Jesus finished work on the cross saved me from my fear and lack of bravery. In the quietness of isolation, I was able to hear the voice of Jesus say, “Your strength indeed is small, Child of weakness, watch and pray. Find in me your all in all.”