What a curveball 2020 has been. For many of us life was ticking on quite nicely until March 2020 and so was our faith. All the things that had sustained us in the past suddenly had to change as the lockdown happened.
For many of us Sunday gatherings have been part of our re-centering each week. We come to church to worship but come away with much more than that. We feel connected to God again as well as feeling connected to others.
Then the doors shut and people stayed home and we started to feel the disconnect.
From this point churches started to minister online in live streams and for many this worked well but others there has been this feeling that something is missing.
We are now 6 months into the COVID 19 pandemic and we are unclear when it will end. We are living with this uncertainty of extra lockdowns. Will holidays happen? Will churches need to close again and will my faith hold?
Many of us feel shaky with our connection to God and wonder if we will feel secure again. Paul talks about “running the race to get the prize”. What’s the race? A Marathon? A jog? A sprint? I don’t know about you but I certainly was running a spirit for many years. It was a slow spirit but a sprint non the less. As the pandemic hit I started to realise that to get through this long marathon somethings needed to change. I had to go at a different pace, I needed to take on new nutrients and have a different perspective on where I was going?
So how do we run the race of discipleship and faith in a pandemic?
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God”. Hebrews 12:1-2
- Surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses
Getting with other people is a key part of our faith. We aren’t Christians on our own but adopted into a family. The pandemic pulls us away from each other and therefore pulls us away from other Christians. But we have to make a commitment to keep being together even if online, using video chat etc. As the writer of Hebrews 10:25 says “Do not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another--and all the more as you see the Day approaching”. Leaning into relationships that encourage your faith is massively important. Paul in Hebrews 12 writes that these people are a “great cloud of witnesses”. During a race in a stadium you are surrounded by people cheering the runners on. These people giving encouragement to the runner are the same people to us in our faith. We need to surround ourselves with people cheering us on. Get surrounded, get plugged in, get involved with other people of faith. It’s helpful to think that disconnecting socially also means disconnecting emotionally.
- Throw off everything that hinders
There will always be things that hinder us from connecting with God. We have to be able to fish these out and disconnect from them so they don’t disconnect us. Throwing off these things that hinder us can be issues of sin, issues of pride or issues of feelings. Our feelings will always lie to us. We can always find 101 reasons why to disconnect from people down to 'feelings' over the 'truth'. When I speak with people who say they have left the church their reasons very often are about the ‘feeling that’ someone didn’t like them, or how they felt about an issue rather than the fact of the situation. We may need to throw off someone who is hindering us connecting with God. If someone isn’t apart of that great cloud of witness we might need to put that relationship on pause. I have people who at this time affect my mental health in a negative way and I have had to distance myself to keep in a better place. The same is with faith.
- Fix your eyes on Jesus.
We have to learn in a season where the central church isn't able to do everything for us to stand on our own two feet. We have to be able to daily fix our eyes on Jesus ourselves through spiritual disciplines. We can become too reliant on others helping us fix our eyes on Jesus. In normal time we can muddle along by coming to church each week and having a church leader help connect us with Jesus. We can think we are playing our part in this, but the test is the moment we can’t be at church, do we still connect? Without realising we can be over-reliant on others to connect us with God.
Put in a regular rhythm of personal prayer and Bible study. Try starting your day with your 3-2-1 (Want is the 3-2-1?)
Work out a way that you can worship at home. Maybe using CD’s or youtube. You are able to sing in worship, but is there other ways you can worship? Lighting a candle? Writing your own psalm? Etc
Serve others by delivering helpful packages, serving at a foodbank or make a phone call to someone isolated and bring encouragement to them. When we lean into being the hands of Jesus we will always find Jesus. Mother Teresa often said the only time she saw Jesus in her later years was in the eyes of those she served. Serving others will connect us with God in beautiful ways.