Our minds are an especially important place. What happens there affects the outcomes of our lives. Though our thoughts don’t determine what happens to us directly, they do determine how we respond to the information, people, and circumstances we encounter, which leads to certain responses, results, and consequences, whether good or bad.
As we wait out the shelter-in-place guidelines given for this COVID19 pandemic, we may be aware of our inner thoughts now more than ever. So, let’s pause to consider what we’re thinking about these days.
We may be allowing ourselves to think about the wrong things, with so little change of scenery and so much opportunity to be idle. As the saying goes, “An idle mind is the devil’s workshop – or playground.” Fake news, wrong conclusions, bad images, sinful temptations, selfish motives, juicy gossip, conspiracy theories, irrational plans, depressing introspection, and baseless fears can overrun the airwaves of our minds.
So, let’s do something special. Let’s take inventory of our thoughts right now with the help of Philippians 4:8. Then, let’s “step up to the plate” and make more regular, deliberate choices to get the right kind of thoughts into our minds during the week ahead. Let’s make our self-isolation this springtime a time when godly thoughts blossom in our minds.
Perhaps you’ve heard the common cliché, “When the cat’s away the mice will play.” It reminds us of what happens when a grade-school teacher steps away from her classroom. The students goof around, don’t they? And let’s not pick on the kids here because this also happens when the supervisor goes on break or the boss takes a vacation. The employees take longer lunches and make personal phone calls on the clock. Though this happens, it doesn’t have to – and the same is true for a church.
As an apostle, Paul functioned in a pastoral way for churches throughout Asia Minor (modern Turkey) and Eastern Europe. Though he never stayed in one place for more than 3-4 years (usually much less), he retained a sense of long-distance, pastoral care for these congregations. This concern motivated him to write letters like Colossians to encourage them not to drift away. (It’s possible that Paul hadn’t visited Colosse in person, though he knew some of their members personally, see Col 1:7; 4:9, 12.)
In this way, he provides pastors today with an example to follow during times of extended absence from the congregations they serve. Through the words he shares, he also provides any congregation with timely advice that applies to long periods of social isolation.
In the absence of in-person, pastoral care (which is crucial), the members of a church should still flourish in their relationship with Christ and their devotion to sound doctrine. So, let’s dig in and take some encouragement from what Paul has to say to the believers at Colosse.
Rahm Emmanuel, an American politician, says, “Never let a serious crisis go to waste. It’s an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.” Regardless of his political views, whatever they may be, his perspective towards a crisis is brilliant. Rather than view our current pandemic as an evil to endure, we should view it as an opportunity to explore how we can grow stronger together as a church.
Difficult circumstances can bring out the worst in us, but they can bring out the best in us, too, even in our relationships as Christians. Self-isolation tests our home relationships due to overexposure and increased contact. It also strains our church relationships outside the home due to underexposure and decreased contact with each other.
While these challenges are real, we don’t have to capitulate to them. We should embrace our self-isolation as an opportunity to deepen and strengthen our relationships in ways we could not (or did not) do before. To help us seize this special opportunity, let’s delve into some relationship guidance from God found in 1 Peter 3:8.
Death hurts. Just ask the men who suffered the excruciating loss of their dear friend and teacher on a cross. Christ’s death hurt them so deeply that they huddled together in self-isolation (John 20:19). One of them, Thomas, even isolated himself from his friends and entertained serious, depressive doubts about his faith (John 20:24-25). Others had been so shaken that, even after the resurrection, they nearly abandoned their God-given mission (John 21:1-3).
We face similar challenges today. Though death always lurks in the shadows, it feels like a monster running loose in the streets right now, knocking on our doors, banging on our windows, and busting into our houses. Every day we hear news of friends, relatives, friends of friends, and relatives of friends who are sick, dying, or dead due to the coronavirus.
In times like these, we need to review our doctrine. We must put death into perspective and embrace the reality of the resurrection with open arms. Since Christ lives, death loses. His resurrection reduces the pain of death in the present and the presence of death in the future. For those who know Christ, death is nothing to fear, as sad and sobering as it may be. That’s why we should keep on living and serving with confidence and resolve, even as death casts its long, dark shadow upon us.
“What’s gonna happen tomorrow?” In one form or another, we’re all asking this question right now. And while it’s wise to do some planning and to be prepared in life (Prov 6:8; 21:20; 22:3; 27:12), we shouldn’t let our planning turn to worry – especially when tomorrow feels so surreal and unknown.
As we wonder about what the next days hold, and the needs we all will have, let’s remember what Jesus himself taught us – that to worry is a waste of time and energy. God knows what we need and will care for us accordingly. Knowing this, we should focus on something else instead. Do you know what that is? Let’s take a look at Matthew 6:25-34.