Fuller

Life in Lockdown

by Mark D. Roberts, Ph.D.
Executive Director of Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership

© Copyright 2020 De Pree Center. All rights reserved.

Table of Contents

Part 1: Created for Community (Genesis 1-2)
Part 2: Connect Creatively (1 Thessalonians 3:1-2)
Part 3: Creative Use of Technology  (1 Thessalonians 5:26-27)
Part 4: Creative and Critical Use of Technology (1 Thessalonians 1:1)
Part 5: Some Examples of Creative and Critical Use of Technology (1 Thessalonians 1:1)
Part 6: Shaped in Solitude (1 Kings 19:11-12)

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Part 1: Created for Community

So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.”

Genesis 1:27; 2:18 (NRSV)

highway road sign that says stay homeAccording to a recent headline from Business Insider, a “Third of the global population is on coronavirus lockdown.” A New York Times headline claims that “Half the World Is On Lockdown.” No matter the actual numbers, almost all of us have been experiencing what is variously called “lockdown,” “stay at home,” “safer at home,” “quarantine,” or “shelter in place.” Even if we are not self-isolating because we have the novel coronavirus or have been exposed to it, we have been mostly sequestered at home, able to go out only for brief, essential trips.

Depending on where you live, you’ve been in lockdown for at least a month, with the promise of more to come. I live in the County of Los Angeles where the “Safer-at Home” order has been extended to May 15, at least. That will mean two months of hiding out at home at the very minimum.

The people I talk to these days express a variety of emotions when it comes to the lockdown. Those who live alone often feel isolated and lonely, cut off from the human interaction they love and need. They are wishing desperately for the chance to hang out with other folks or exchange a hug or two. The people who are sheltering with family or roommates, in addition to longing for diverse human interaction, may also be feeling trapped with people who are driving them a bit crazy. A friend of mine who dearly loves his children said to me, “I’m afraid I’m about ready to lose it with them.” If you’ve ever spent much time alone with preschool-aged children, you can probably relate to how he feels. He’s not quite to the level of Jack Torrance in The Shining, but he could sure use some extended time outside of his confining home and away from his beloved but exasperating kids.

Beginning with today’s Life for Leaders devotion, I’d like to offer some thoughts on what I’m calling “Life in Lockdown.”  I’m not going to offer a lot of practical advice on how you should be living these days. You can find plenty of that online (for example, see Business Insider’s article: “4 astronauts reveal their secrets to surviving months of isolation with other people”). Instead, what I’d like to do is to reflect on how Scripture might help you think, feel, and live differently in your current sequestration. Maybe there are things God wants you to discover during this time and new grace to be received.

If you’re one of those who aches for more time with people, know that what you’re feeling is essentially human. After all, we were created for community with others. In Genesis 1:27, for example, God created humankind as “male and female.” The first command given by God to human beings was to “be fruitful and multiply,” which means, most literally, to make more people. As image bearers of God, we live in relationship with others as an essential aspect of our created identity and calling.

In Genesis 2, God starts out by creating a solitary man. But then God observes, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner” (Genesis 2:18). God creates a woman as the man’s partner. Together the man and the woman, and the people they produce, will do their essential work of caring for creation, guarding it and helping it to be productive (Genesis 2:15). Human life and human work happen in community, according to God’s design.

Though, as we’ll see later in this series, there are times when it is good for a person to be alone for a set period of time, the creation narrative reveals the communal nature of humanity. Like the triune God whose image we bear, we are meant to exist in relationship with others. Thus, the longing we feel when living in isolation is an expression of who God has made us to be. Enforced sequestration can actually put us in touch with essential aspects of our humanity that we might otherwise take for granted.

For example, a few days ago a friend of mine came to drop off a package on our front porch. Though we remained many feet apart, I felt such joy in seeing this friend. I realized more than ever just how my relationship with this person meant to me. And, more deeply, I felt more strongly than I often do how much relationships mean in my life.

In this unusual season of life it is wise for us to remain physically distant from others, at least for a few more weeks. But it still remains true that, in general, it is not good for a man or a woman to be alone. Thus, in a time when physical proximity is unhealthy, we must seek other ways to connect. We need this, and so do others in our lives, including those whose aloneness may be particularly acute these days.

Something to Think About:

How are you feeling about the lockdown you’re experiencing these days? Are there things about it that you find pleasing? Are there things you find painful?

As you find yourself wishing you had more engagement with others, what are you really longing for? What do you miss about being with other people? What do you value most about your relationships with others?

Something to Do:

If you can find a few moments of quiet, reflect on how you’re feeling during the lockdown. Be attentive to different kinds of feelings. Talk to God about these and see what God wants to teach you.

Prayer:

Gracious God, you have made us as beings in community. We exist for fellowship with you, to be sure, but also for relationship with each other. Thus, in this particular time of life, when we’re living so distantly from others, we feel out of sorts, if not painfully lonely. Help us, Lord, to learn in this time more about who you have made us to be. Give us new appreciation for the relationships we have with others in our families, friendship groups, neighborhoods, workplaces, and churches. Show us how we can reach out and connect with people in new ways. Amen.

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Part 2: Connect Creatively

Therefore when we could bear it no longer, we decided to be left alone in Athens; and we sent Timothy, our brother and co-worker for God in proclaiming the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you for the sake of your faith.

1 Thessalonians 3:1-2 (NRSV)

A plate of chocolate covered strawberriesYesterday we began a devotional series called “Life in Lockdown.” On the basis of the creation account in Genesis, I noted that our longing for relationship in this unique time of history is a reflection of our fundamental humanity. We were created in relationship and for relationship. We reflect God’s own nature when we live and work in community with others. Thus, as you long to be with people even though you have to stay in your home, you are experiencing an essential part of your humanity.

Recognizing your inborn need for relationships may be part of what God wants to teach you through the COVID-19 crisis. Now, I realize that you may already know this about yourself in a profound way. But if you’re at all like me, you can sometimes get so wrapped up in the work of life, in the tasks you have to do and in the mission to which you have been called, that you can underestimate the importance of relationships in your life. These days, that kind of underestimation is harder to do. The lack of community you are experiencing can heighten your appreciation of the relationships you usually experience but can easily take for granted. On Easter Sunday morning, for example, as I worshiped virtually with my home church, I felt such strong love for those leading and joining me in worship. Being away from them increased my gratitude for them and awareness of how much I need them in my life.

Though I believe it’s important for us to learn the value of community in this time, learning is not the only way for us to receive God’s grace. This is also a time, I think, to receive the grace of innovation. In particular, I am convinced that God wants to teach us how to be creative in the ways we connect with each other. As it turns out, Scripture has much to say about this, even though the biblical writings were not composed in the era of email, smartphones, Facebook, and Zoom.

Consider the example of the Apostle Paul and his relationship with the Christians in Thessalonica. Paul had come to this city in Macedonia in order to preach the gospel. The Thessalonians responded favorably to Paul’s message, joining together to form a new church. But Paul’s stay in Thessalonica was cut short by persecution. He left town abruptly, eventually ending up in Athens.

In order to stay connected to the Thessalonian Christians, Paul wrote a letter we know as 1 Thessalonians. In this letter he shared his affection for his brothers and sisters in Thessalonica, talking about how much he missed them: “We longed with great eagerness to see you face to face” (1 Thessalonians 2:17). But when he couldn’t come to visit them, he chose another way to connect: “Therefore when we could bear it no longer, we decided to be left alone in Athens; and we sent Timothy, our brother and co-worker for God in proclaiming the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you for the sake of your faith” (1 Thessalonians 3:1-2). Notice Paul’s language here. When he talks about bearing it no longer, you can feel the intensity of his desire to be with the Thessalonians.

Rather than merely feeling longing and sadness, however, Paul chose a creative way to stay connected. He sent his close partner to Thessalonica, both to share news of how Paul was doing and to get news about the church so he might bring it back to Paul in Athens. And that’s exactly what happened. When Timothy returned, he brought reassuring news about the wellbeing of the Thessalonians and their longing for Paul. This gladdened Paul’s heart (1 Thessalonians 3:9).

From our point of view, sending Timothy to Thessalonica might seem like an obvious thing for Paul to have done. But his relationship with the Thessalonians came early in Paul’s ministry. He had to be creative in figuring out how to maintain his relationships with his churches because there were few precedents for him to follow. Sending a co-worker was Paul’s experiment in relationship nurturance. It worked out so well that it became a common feature of his church planting mission.

How can you connect creatively with people you’re not able to be physically close to? Well, sending an emissary like Timothy isn’t a good idea. But you can surely come up with others. For example, my wife has for years had a tradition of making chocolate covered strawberries as Easter gifts for family and friends. In the past, she’d bring these to our Sunday afternoon Easter gathering. Not this year, of course. But that didn’t stop Linda. She made her special strawberries on the Saturday morning before Easter, and then spent the afternoon delivering them all over Southern California. When she made a delivery, she stayed far away from the recipients, but they talked for several minutes before she went on to her next stop.

Tomorrow, I’ll consider another way in which Paul’s example can encourage you to be creative in connecting with others. For now, you may want to work through the following questions.

Something to Think About:

Since living under the “stay-at-home” order, have you been creative in connecting with others? If so, what have you done? How did it go?

If not, what might you do today to connect with someone you’re not living with?

Something to Do:

Is there someone in your life who may be feeling exceptionally lonely during the lockdown, perhaps someone who lives alone? For example, this experience can be especially painful for a person who has recently lost a spouse. Ask the Lord to bring to mind someone you can reach out to by phone or video conference. Then, contact this person. (Note: I just took some of my own medicine. I thought of a friend who recently lost his wife and who is having a hard time with the isolation of the lockdown. So I called him up and we had a good chat. I’m glad I did this and I think he is too.)

Prayer:

Gracious God, thank you for the example of Paul, who creatively reached out to the Thessalonians when he was separated from them. Help me, Lord, to do similarly in this time of physical separation from others. Bring to mind someone with whom I can connect today. Then, may I reach out to this person in love. To you be all the glory, Amen.

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Part 3: Creative Use of Technology

Greet all the brothers and sisters with a holy kiss. I solemnly command you by the Lord that this letter be read to all of them.

1 Thessalonians 5:26-27 (NRSV)

An ancient Greek papyrusA pastor friend of mine was lamenting the fact that he had to use digital technology to engage with his congregation. Not only did he miss face-to-face contact with his people, but also he seemed to resent the fact that he had to use technology he didn’t love. “Zoom is okay,” he said. “But we’re the first pastors who’ve had to use this sort of thing and that bugs me.”

“Actually,” I responded, “we’re not the first pastors who’ve had to be creative in our use of technology in order to shepherd our flocks. That’s been going on for centuries. In fact, you see it in the Bible.”

“Where?” he wondered. “Technology didn’t exist back then.”

“That’s true of digital technology, of course,” I said. “But technology did exist in the first century and it was essential to the pastoring of the early church.”

“Tell me more about this,” he said.

So I did, drawing from the research I did years ago while working on my Ph.D. dissertation on the Apostle Paul and his relationship with the Thessalonian church. Paul had been called by God to an itinerant church-planting ministry. He would travel to some city in the Roman Empire, preach for a season, gather new believers into a community, help them get launched, and then move on to the next city. Yet, just because Paul had left a given city, he did not stop caring about the church he had planted there. Thus, he faced a tricky challenge: how to pastor a church when he wasn’t physically present.

One way Paul did this, as we saw in yesterday’s devotion, was by sending emissaries to various churches. Another way required creative use of technology on Paul’s part. I’m speaking of letter writing. Let me explain why, for Paul, this was both technological and creative.

First, letter writing used the tools and products of first-century technology. It required the use of papyrus, which was produced from a plant that grew around the Nile River in Egypt. (Today’s photo is a papyrus document from the third-century B.C.) Paul’s use of papyrus depended both on the technical process by which this paper-like substance was made and on the extensive trading system that spread papyrus throughout the Roman Empire. Moreover, Paul used both ink and a stylus as he wrote. These were essential to the technology of letter production.

Letter writing, therefore, was technological. But, you might wonder, why do I suggest that Paul was creative in the use of this technology? Isn’t it rather obvious that he should have written letters to his churches? It is . . . to us. We know Paul mainly from his letters. Thus, we’re apt to think, “Of course Paul wrote letters to his churches.” But for Paul, this was not nearly so intuitive. Though letters were common in the Greco-Roman world, they tended to come in two forms: personal letters and official letters. Relatives wrote each other, for example, and emperors wrote to their subjects. But nobody wrote letters that were a mix of personal and official in order to teach, encourage, nurture relationships, and shape communities from a distance. Paul used a familiar technology in an unfamiliar, creative way.

We, of course, have a wider variety of technologies available to us today. We can still write letters, of course, delivering them in a variety of modes (snail mail, email, fax, sharing through the cloud, etc.). But digital technology gives us so many more ways to stay in touch with people. In fact, that’s what’s happening at this very moment. You and I are communicating through a technological medium that has only been around for a few years, relatively speaking. (On a related note, next week my colleagues Michaela O’Donnell Long and Tod Bolsinger will be featured in a De Pree Center webinar on “Leading in Uncharted Territory.” Click here for more information.) [Note to Bethany and Jennifer: this may need some editing when we get more details.]

In tomorrow’s Life for Leaders devotion I want to think with you a bit more about what we might learn from Paul’s use of technology. For now, you may want to consider the following questions.

Something to Think About:

As you think about Paul’s use of letters to care for the churches he planted, what strikes you about Paul’s approach? What do you think you might learn from Paul?

In what ways do you use technology to connect with and care for people? Which technologies do you prefer? Why? Which technologies do you tend to avoid? Why?

How might you use technology in a creative way to reach out to and communicate with the people in your life: family, friends, co-workers, church members, etc.?

Something to Do:

As you think about the last question above, try an experiment. Use some kind of technology to reach out to someone you might otherwise have not connected with. Pay attention to your interaction with this person and see what you learn from it.

Prayer:

Gracious God, thank you for the example of Paul. Thank you for his creative use of the technology that was available to him. Help us, we pray, to be similarly creative in our time of history, with all of the tools available to us. Even when we are unable to be physically present to each other, like Paul, may we find ways to build community, share loving concern, and help each other to grow in faith. Amen.

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Part 4: Creative and Critical Use of Technology

Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace.

1 Thessalonians 1:1 (NRSV)

A fountain pen and a letterIn yesterday’s Life for Leaders devotion, we considered Paul’s creative use of technology to nurture churches he had planted but from which he was physically separated. We saw that Paul adopted the technology of letter writing in order to do what nobody had done before. Though we can take his creativity for granted, what Paul did was quite innovative for its time.

Yet, Paul was not merely creative in his use of letters. He was also critical. I don’t mean he said negative things about letters. Paul was critical in the sense that his used his critical faculties to think carefully and theologically about how he communicated through letters. I spent years of my life studying this very thing, which was a central thesis of my doctoral dissertation. Let me cite a few examples of Paul’s effort that might encourage you:

  1. Paul’s opening greeting was unique. Whereas first-century letters would open with “Greetings” (chairein in Greek), Paul began with “Grace [charis in Greek] and peace [following Hebrew custom].” Paul’s language reflected his distinctive, gospel-centered theology.
  2. Paul imitated and expanded the traditional opening mention of the gods. His initial prayers underscored the point that the churches founded by Paul were not really his churches. They were God’s churches, built on God’s grace in Christ.
  3. Paul was exceptionally open in his letters about his own feelings. We take this for granted in our culture, but what Paul did was unique. His choice to be vulnerable reflected both his core theology about who Christ was and what Christ had done.
  4. Paul used his letters as substantive teaching tools. He didn’t just pass along news (as was common in personal letters) or make authoritative pronouncements (as in official letters). Rather, Paul went to great lengths to help his churches grow in their understanding and experience of Christ.
  5. Paul, though comfortable using his apostolic authority when necessary (as in his letter to the Galatians), bent over backwards to include his converts as equal brothers and sisters in the church and partners in his mission. Moreover, even when he was the primary writer of a letter, he made sure to include his co-workers as co-writers.

So much more could be said here, of course, but you don’t want to read my 200-page dissertation in this devotion. The point I want to make is that Paul did not simply use technology unthinkingly. Rather, he used technology both creatively and critically, finding ways to do with letters what had not been done before. (For a creative and critical use of technology, next week my colleagues Michaela O’Donnell Long and Tod Bolsinger will be featured in a De Pree Center webinar on “Leading in Uncharted Territory.” Click here for more information.)

For us, the implications are clear. As we utilize the various technologies that are available to us, we should think carefully about how best to use them. What might it mean to send an email as a follower of Jesus? How might a Christian engage with others on Facebook? What difference does our faith make when it comes to a Zoom video conference? In Monday’s Life for Leaders devotion I will share a few ideas about these things. For now, let me invite you to reflect on your use of technology in light of your faith.

Something to Think About:

What about Paul’s use of letters strikes you as significant?

Do you use any communication technology in a way that is distinctive because of your Christian faith? What difference does your faith make?

Have you seen other Christians using technology in a way that reflects genuine faith—or, in your opinion, in inconsistent with our faith?

Something to Do:

As you think about how you use technology, can you imagine doing something different because of your faith? If something comes to mind, experiment with this. You might also want to speak with your small group or a Christian friend about this.

Prayer:

Gracious God, again we thank you for the example of Paul, for his creative and critical use of technology in his work. Help us to be similarly creative and critical. By your Spirit, show us what we might do differently (or not do at all) as a reflection of the gospel. Let “all of our intentions, actions, and operations be directed purely to your praise and your service.” Amen.

Quotation taken from a prayer of St. Ignatius of Loyola.

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Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace.

1 Thessalonians 1: 1 (NRSV)

A man on his cellphone with a skyline in the backgroundIn the last two devotions in this “Life in Lockdown” series, I’ve been reflecting on Paul’s creative and critical use of one form of technology, namely, letter writing. I’ve explained that Paul didn’t simply adopt the letter writing forms and conventions available to him. Rather, he used them in new ways, ways that reflected the newness of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

In this time of history, as we are living in a lockdown owing to the novel coronavirus, we need to imitate the example of the Apostle Paul. Yes, this might include sending letters to people we care about. But I’m thinking of imitation in a broader sense. Like Paul, we ought to employ the technologies available to us. And, like Paul, we ought to do so in a way that is both creative and critical.

Let me offer an example from my own use of technology. In 2003 I began blogging with a short review of The Da Vinci Code. Soon, my blog started getting thousands of visitors, many who would comment on what I had written. I discovered that commenters often did not feel the need to be kind. Cruel and combative words were acceptable in blog comments (and later, in social media). I needed to figure out how I would respond to someone who wrote something mean. Would I punch back in the same way? Would I ignore them? As I thought about this in light of my faith, I remembered what Jesus had said about walking the second mile and turning the other cheek. On that basis I made a commitment to being as gracious as I could be online, even with those who were malicious in addition to being critical. I rejected what seemed to be the common way of rudeness, choosing instead the way of Jesus.

Another example of technological innovation comes from my friend Chris. Chris is a pastor, a relational person who enjoys being personally involved with his congregants. When the COVID-19 crisis hit, Chris was suddenly unable to relate to his people in his preferred mode. But he quickly adapted, using Zoom for Bible studies, small groups, and church meetings. He also used one of the most common of technologies, his phone, to call people in his church family. Each day of the week Chris makes several calls just to check in on people. They appreciate his care and he appreciates the community he experiences.

Another friend of mine is doing fairly well during the lockdown, in part because she gets along nicely with the family members with whom she lives. She is not especially lonely during the lockdown. But my friend is also keenly aware that others do not have it as good as she does right now. So she thinks of people she knows who are apt to feel lonely and reaches out to them. Depending on the situation, sometimes she calls. Sometimes she texts or emails. Technology gives her the opportunity to care for people who need a special touch in these unusual times.

Let me share one final example, this from my own life. As I’ve thought about our life in lockdown, it occurred to me that many people are not praying with others these days. We Christians often pray together when we’re physically together in worship, a small group, a mission team, or even a church meeting. But we don’t tend to pray as regularly through email, texting, phone calls, or video conferences. So, following the example of the Apostle Paul who shared his prayers through letters, I’ve been praying in new contexts. When I get ready to finish up a phone call, for example, I’ll often ask, “Would it be okay if I prayed before we hang up?” I find that people are usually pleasantly surprised by this question. Just today a man I spoke with on the phone, someone I did not know before this call, not only agreed that I should pray but also felt moved to join in after I was done.

If you begin to think creatively and critically about how you can use technology in your life, I’m sure you’ll come up with lots of possibilities. If you try some new experiment, I’d love to hear about it. You can share it with me directly via email ([email protected]) or by adding a comment to this devotion on the De Pree website. We can all learn from each other in this time.

Something to Think About:

Have you experienced some new use of technology in the last couple of months? What happened? How was this for you?

As you think of what it means to be part of the body of Christ in the midst of a lockdown, how might you connect with and care for other members of the body? Yes, it’s good to reach out to your friends and family members, for sure. But there may be others in your sphere of influence who are easily overlooked. How might you connect with them through technology?

Something to Do:

Think of someone you know who could really use human connection today. If you can’t think of anyone, ask the Lord for help. When a person comes to mind, pray about the best way to reach out. Then do it.

Prayer:

Gracious God, thank you for the technology that allows us to connect with others even when we are physically apart. Yes, sometimes this technology can be annoying. But we are especially aware these days of how it enables us to be together in ways that would not have been possible only a few years ago.

Give us creativity in the way we employ the technology that is available to us. Also, help us to think critically about what we’re doing. May all that we do be informed by the gospel and guided by your truth. Amen.

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Part 6: Shaped in Solitude

[The LORD said to Elijah], “Go out and stand on the mountain before the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.” Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence.

1 Kings 19:11-12 (NRSV)

An elderly man sitting on stairsLast week we began seeking biblical wisdom for “Life in Lockdown.” We learned that we were created, not as solitary individuals, but rather as people in community. Relationship with others is an essential element of our God-breathed DNA. Thus, in a time when COVID-19 keeps us separate from each other, it’s natural that we should feel a longing for connection. But, in a season when it is not possible for us to be with people, we can learn from the Apostle Paul to be creative so as to connect with those who are physically absent. Technology helped Paul to do this and so it can help us if we are both creative and critical.

Relationship with other people is essential to our humanity. Yet, at the same time, Scripture commends the value of being alone at times. Consider, for example, the case of Elijah in 1 Kings 19:1-18. He had recently experienced the astounding power of God in a life-and-death competition with the prophets of Baal. After his victory, however, the evil queen Jezebel promised to kill Elijah. So, in fear, he fled into the wilderness. He was so discouraged that he asked the Lord if he might die. But, instead, the Lord sent an angel to strengthen Elijah, who journeyed farther into the wilderness. He ended up at Mt. Horeb, where he spent the night in a cave. His physical aloneness exacerbated his feeling of being spiritually alone as the only faithful person left among his people (1 Kings 19:10).

In his solitude, Elijah received a command from the Lord to stand on the mountain because the Lord was about to pass by. What happened next was truly astounding. A rock-splitting wind blew, “but the LORD was not in the wind.” Then came an earthquake and a fire, but the LORD was not to be found in either of these. Finally, there came “a sound of a sheer silence” (1 Kings 19:12). In the traditional language of the King James Version, Elijah heard “a still small voice.” Through this whisper the Lord spoke to Elijah, showing him what he must do next, including the anointing of his successor, Elisha.

So much could be said about this remarkable story. But what I want to underscore here is the fact that God spoke to and shaped Elijah when the prophet was alone. He was able to hear the quiet voice of the Lord in solitude and silence. Nothing in this story negates the fact that Elijah, like all human beings, was created for community. But the narrative does show how, at times, God is able to work in our lives powerfully when we are away from our community.

We can think of other biblical examples that make this same point. Moses encountered the Lord in the burning bush when he was alone in the wilderness (Exodus 3:1-6). Jacob, when he was “left alone,” wrestled with God and was given a new name and blessing (Genesis 32:22-30). Jesus, you’ll remember, immediately after being declared God’s beloved Son, was driven into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit. There, in his solitude, Jesus confirmed his mission through being tempted by the devil (Luke 4:1-13).

I will grant that being sequestered in your home during a pandemic isn’t exactly the same experience as what we see in these biblical stories. But it is worth noting that Elijah did not freely and happily choose his solitude. Instead, he was chased into the wilderness by a queen who sought to kill him. You might say his social distancing was imposed upon him. But—and this is key—Elijah’s lack of choice in the matter did not keep him from encountering God in a transformational way. Rather, God used Elijah’s situation for extraordinary good in the prophet’s life.

I know that some who read this devotion are living by themselves and desperate for company. Others of you find yourselves in small homes with lots of young children demanding your attention. Some of you are working harder than ever. Others of you have lost your jobs or can’t work from home. In this time, there is no “once size fits all” kind of lockdown. But, no matter your particular situation, know that God is with you and that God wants to meet you right where you are. Your encounter with the Lord might come when, like Elijah, you are quiet and alone. Or God might speak to you through the neediness of your toddler or the embrace of your spouse. I want to encourage you to be open to however the Lord wants to speak to you. Let this unanticipated and unwanted lockdown become a place to hear God’s voice for you.

Something to Think About:

Have you experienced God in a different way during this lockdown? If so, what has this been like for you?

Can you think of a time in your life when, in solitude, you were able to “hear God’s voice” distinctly? What was that like? What did God say to you?

Something to Do:

Depending on your situation, it may find it easy or difficult to get time alone during the lockdown. One way or another, however, I’d encourage you to get several minutes of solitude. (A friend of mine needed to shut herself in the bathroom to do this.) When you are alone, see if you can quiet your soul enough to wait upon God. You may or may not hear anything special, and that’s okay. But simply allow yourself to “be” in God’s presence.

Prayer:

Gracious God, thank you for being with us at all times, when we’re in the midst of a crowd and when we’re alone in some quiet place. Thank you for the times you speak to us by your Spirit, no matter the place.

Lord, the example of Elijah encourages us to find solitude so that we might be more attentive to you. Help us to do this no matter our particular situation. As we are quiet before you, may we sense your presence and peace. If there’s something you want to say to us, give us ears to hear you. Amen.

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