Article: Thriving amidst the loneliness of COVID! | Jobin Sam Varghese

The endless stretch of COVID-19 has left many of us in various challenges, mainly exposing the vulnerabilities of loneliness and helplessness. Many of our apartments/housing complexes in the urban cities have been deserted with “to-let” boards coming up in most of the streets. Some of us have lost our friends or family members in this pandemic, and for some of us, our support communities/friends are not around us anymore. Staying alone during these deadly waves of COVID is not something that we were prepared for! For some others, it could be the loneliness they face even when they are surrounded by people.
Many of our workplaces have been increasing the deliverable with shorter timelines which results in prolonged working hours that leads to the shooting up of stress. For those who have been “alone”, or for the “singles”, this season of time could bring back those deeper underlying fear that you would have tried skipping out over these years! You probably have slipped into being in a “shell”, silently suffering from fears, vulnerabilities, and scars of the past that had begun to haunt you!
Bible assures of Jesus who has gone through every single storm we could go through – including this season – “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet he did not sin”- Hebrews 4:15
One such passage which comforted me and could relate to, is this: “A time is coming and in fact, has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me” – John 16.32
Jesus was sharing this with his disciples on how his crucifixion experience would be. Mind you, we have Peter, Thomas and others who had publicly vowed of their devotion to stick to Jesus and to even give up their lives if needed. Jesus knew and had predicted that they couldn’t stick on to him during those hours. Aren’t we also living in a time where our friends/ communities have also “scattered, each to your own home”? Yes, those feeling of loneliness could suffocate you, and you may not know whom to reach out for help. Jesus also experience this feeling of loneliness while his closest disciples deserted him, leaving him alone during those trials, floggings, and finally the crucifixion at Calvary. The assurance Jesus had, which we too can cling on to is the verse “Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me”
We find many other examples in the Bible. The verse quoted below is the experience of Apostle Paul:
“At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them. But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength…. And I was delivered from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever”. Amen. 2 Timothy 4:16-18
I loved how each of these verses from Paul speaks so much about the assurance he had while going through that loneliness, receiving the grace from God and having faith in God. This is especially reflected in his words “will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom”. We can also cling on to these words and renew our faith and receive grace from God as we go through difficult times.

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Below are some of the assurances God promises us and the way we could deal forward!
1) Trusting in God

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This could be a cliché – trusting in God and in his love for us during this season could be painful and difficult. We should not trust God because of our visible circumstances but because of his promise towards us, of being with us to the very end. Jesus promised,” I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you” – John 14.18. Even while the way ahead looks ambiguous, take hold in God who has promised not to leave you nor forsake you through any seasons of your life – including COVID. The vulnerabilities that you have been exposed to in your life through the pandemic is an opportunity to reflect upon yourselves and ensure to trust in God who – as I always read or sing or preach – is our shelter and fortress. There is nothing in this world that can separate you from the love for Christ. Even when you are battling with the silent pains and loneliness, Jesus sees you through. Would you open your heart to the healer and submit your care to him?

I love this verse, “My dove in the clefts of the rock, in the hiding places on the mountainside, show me your face, let me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet, and your face is lovely “Song of Solomon 2:14

It may feel like you have failed or are worried and are hiding away from anyone’s reach. May this time of solitude result in an intimacy with the lover of your soul. Even while you wouldn’t be a priority and you don’t have many people to speak out your feeling to, Jesus longs to hear from you!

Throughout the scriptures, we see how God uses the solitude to prepare and speak with his people – be it with Apostle John while he was alone on the island of Patmos, or with Elijah on Mount Horeb, or with Apostle Paul in Arabia during his initial years of conversion .Don’t miss out on the beauty of being in solitude with God.

2) Unwrapping the Fears!
This long-stretched pandemic brings out some great fears which could suffocate us! Being a child of God, let’s not allow fear to enslave us. For many, the top in the list of fears would be the fear concerning their “health” or “life “
The fear of losing your health and life – probably dying alone, without anyone around, could be a fear that grips you now. The constant news or WhatsApp or FB posts, and news about people we know succumbing to the virus might bring this question to our minds – “am I next? “
Even as we take the necessary precaution, we trust that God is our protector, submit to his will in our life, and believe that he is our healer. Having said that, we know that during this season, many believers have lost their lives! Believing in Christ doesn’t mean that you wouldn’t be infected or that you wouldn’t lose your life, but we cherish the greatest hope that even if we are buried down the soil, we will continue to live in Christ.
Because he lives, I live forever! Such a joy and hope through each day to know that Christ has given us the victory over death and sin and has filled us with a new ray of hope of life! With this hope, we can proclaim “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” – 1Corinthians 15:55. That is why Paul stated, “for me to live is Christ and die is gain”! When our heartbeats stop, we haven’t lost the battle, but we enter the rest with our father in heaven – the place that we longed for – and will be with the lover of our souls and see him with our own eyes!
Even if we have lost some of our loved ones in this season, we don’t need to grieve like the rest of the people without hope, because we have the hope that on the day when the trumpets shall sound, the dead in Christ will rise, and we too who are alive will be caught up in the mid-air and we will spend eternity with our Lord and his saints!
“Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this? John11:25-26.

3) Look beyond you!

Christian life is never about us. We are called to serve and show compassion to the people around us! Our thoughts shouldn’t be self-centered which just mounts up our pains and sufferings. When you pray, think, and support your dear ones who are battling with troubles, you become selfless and that compassion you show will ease you! Paul explains on how this could be possible –

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort”. 2 Corinthians 1: 3-7

Conclusion
Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me. Psalms 23.4
While it could be some of the darkest valleys we walk through, not being sure of where we are heading up, be assured of the one who is with you. Let’s not waste away this season. It’s not just about surviving this time, but it’s about thriving towards a closer intimacy with the Lord. Even as we realize that our earthly friends and families have limitations to reach out to us, let us remember that we have a heavenly father who is there by our side. ”The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it” – 1 Thessalonians 5:24
Here is an Abstract from an Article of David Wilkerson “

“God says to all grieving, hurting saints, “Fear not! I see and know all your suffering and I will not allow Satan to destroy you. You may ask, “But what am I to do? How can I have the Lord’s peace in all this?”

The answer is found in God’s word to Moses and Israel. With the sea before them, an enemy behind them, and no place to turn, God commanded them, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today. . . . The Lord will fight for you and you shall hold your peace” (Exodus 14:13-14).This last phrase, “Hold your peace,” means no more worrying, no more trying to figure everything out on your own. Instead, trust God to make a way for you…”

Quoting an old Hymn. May the Lord speak to you through this.

Abide with me, fast falls the eventide
The darkness deepens Lord, with me abide
When other helpers fail and comforts flee
Help of the helpless, oh, abide with me
Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day
Earth’s joys grow dim, its glories pass away
Change and decay in all around I see
O Thou who changest not, abide with me
I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness
Where is death’s sting?
Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if Thou abide with me
Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies
Heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee
In life, in death, o Lord, abide with me
Abide with me, abide with me

Prayer
Lord, abide with me. Lord, give me the grace to hold fast with you as I walk through the difficult times. May I experience your grace, provision, and protection! Give me the council to go forward and help me to embrace your love towards me. Lord, nothing in this world can separate me from your love! In Jesus Name – Amen!

Jobin Sam Varghese

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