The spiritual impact of social distancing – highs, lows and what we will hold onto post-COVID-19
As we start to see some of the restrictions we have faced over the past few months begin to roll back, we check in with four Christians from different life stages about the spiritual impacts of isolation.
A greater impact for the gospel
Adam Condie, part-time student and Christian Education teacher, says the disruption felt like a board game being thrown into the air. “It took me a while to put all the pieces into the right spot and notice what was missing,” he says. “As things settled into the new normal, I was more thankful than ever to have very different things to do each day. It felt like my life was always Saturday, never Sunday”.
Apart from being saved from the daily battle to make the 6:11am train, Adam has found himself with more time and with a potentially bigger gospel reach. He’s working as a class cover one day a week and recording two Christian Ed lessons, which are sent to 15 junior school classes.
Mr Condie is excited by the idea that parents who normally have nothing to do with Christianity are watching these classes – and every day, he has the opportunity to point children to the sovereignty and righteousness of God.
“It feels easier to remain silent, and not speak into the situation our 5-year-olds are in,” he says. I taught Kindy in 2018 and know how hard the start of the year is for teachers, students and parents alike. As they just start to adjust to ‘big school’, everything changes. They needed to hear that God can use even bad and sad things for his good.” When asked about the impact on his spiritual life, Mr Condie says he has been incredibly humbled, and also encouraged, by the promises of God found in Matthew 6.
“There is just so much I’ve been reminded is out of my control. The reality is, it always was.”
He wants to keep an attitude of intentionality as he gradually returns to what his life was like pre-COVID. “The Bible says to ‘make the most of every opportunity’, and I hope to do just that,” he says. “To delight in being able to hear the prayer points of my K-2 Sunday school class. To be thankful for the people I study with, and be intentional with the lunch time chat. To keep spending more quality time with my wife.”
For many families, COVID-19 has made life incredibly hard
Dee Stones has had a very different experience. “We have found the COVID season horrific, and I have found it incredibly hard spiritually,” she says.
Mrs Stones found out she was pregnant just before the COVID restrictions came in. A difficult pregnancy and a restless toddler with flaring allergies – combined with isolation from friends, family and support – has made it an incredibly difficult season.
She talks about the monotony of each day, trapped inside a tiny apartment with no energy. Her daughter has also found it difficult, struggling with her own anxiety about guests coming to the door and bringing “COVI” into the family home.
Attending online church has not been smooth, Mrs Stones has been too sick to join her Bible study group, and has spent her Sundays managing meltdowns. “I’ve really struggled spiritually, feeling very angry with God,” she says. “Our journey since becoming parents has been pretty rough and I pleaded with God for an easier year to recover spiritually, mentally and physically. But that wasn’t his plan for us.
“I felt like I had been dealt so much more than I could handle, yet it kept getting worse.”
Her most helpful spiritual input has been the phone calls and texts from her Christian family and friends. “I am so thankful for the encouragement of brothers in Christ who spoke the word of God to me when I couldn’t hear it,” she says. “Throughout hardship I am learning to trust God, particularly when I don’t understand or agree with him. And I am learning that despite my plans, God has his own, and somehow they are better. He hasn't left us, he has always sustained us and provided for us what we need”
“I still feel I am struggling, but my heart longs to be where I was before all of this. I pray that I will be up to a more hearty spiritual diet soon, that I can get back on track spiritually and be able to help my family thrive rather than just survive physically and spiritually throughout the rest of the COVID season.”
A unique opportunity
Emily Loa-Ferreira reflects that this has been a strange but helpful time, adjusting to married life and learning about her husband.
“The extra time together has helped us learn more about each other and establish some good routines and spiritual disciplines that we probably wouldn’t have established in non-isolation life!” she says.
She also reflects that during this time she has been much more intentional in investing in church relationships outside Sundays and engaging with a much wider range of people.
“God has used this COVID-19 season to prompt me to have a greater trust in his character and promises,” she says. “Amidst my feelings of not being in control, being uncertain about tomorrow, and being acutely aware of the frailty of human life, God has reminded me that he is always in control, he is the God of compassion and comfort, Jesus has has conquered death and he has secured eternal life for those who trust in him.
“I don’t think I would be clinging onto God’s character this much if it hadn’t been for COVID-19”
A new perspective for a new mum
As a brand-new mum, Christine West had a very different picture of what maternity leave would look like. “I had anticipated that my ‘village’ of friends, family and the church community would be able to help me navigate this new role – but COVID-19 changed that,” she says. “My village converted to online video calls.”
Mrs West reflects that there are lots of things she took for granted in her pre-COVID life that she misses now. “I miss our family gatherings over food, opening the Bible with a small group, and singing praises to God with our family. I read James 1:17 in a new light – a reminder that ‘every good and perfect gift is from above’.”
“God has reminded me of the good gifts he blesses us with so abundantly. I would like to keep this particular perspective on the blessings of God in mind. Every day and each relationship is a good gift from God.”
No matter what the last few months have been like for you, remember that in every church community, and in every suburb, there have been people whose experience mirrors Adam’s, Dee’s, Christine's and Emily’s. For some, this has been a welcome slowdown and opportunity to connect more. For others, it has been spiritually devastating.
As we recover over the next few months, one thing to reflect on is that for all of these individuals it was the Christian friends, encouraging them to look to God, that have helped them through.