Covid-19: The Gift of Isolation
There were a lot of questions rolling around in my mind as I listened to the doctor on the other end of the phone speak about what it means to be quarantined. “Positive?” I thought to myself. “We tested positive for Corona Virus?” What a peculiar thing. Kristen and I had just returned from a trip to Israel and were now retracing our steps to discern when we may have been infected. Israel is not a hot spot for Covid-19 and therefore we concluded we must have been infected at one of the airports or in one of the planes on the way home. Although neither of us were experiencing heavy symptoms we knew we had been infected with something and the test now confirmed it. We had joined the statistics that were being broadcasted all over the world.
From the beginning of this experience one question remained constant in my mind, “What is God doing?” of course it was God’s will for us to catch the virus. Of course, he is good and is causing “all things to work together for good.” In many details of this experience the Lord has made us keenly aware of the blessings great and small. However, the greatest gift that the Corona Virus has given us is a fresh reminder for our need of God’s presence and fellowship.
Trials are like valleys. And every trial, like a valley, has a depth and a length to which one must walk. We start out on top and as the trial unfolds, we go down into the valley until we are at the lowest, darkest place that this valley can take us. As we continue to walk, we eventually walk out of the valley and are brought back to a high place where we can look back with a clearer view of where we have just come from. Now as I look back, what I see more clearly than anything is the path my prayer life took as I walked through the different stages of this valley; the valley we have come to know as the Corona Virus.
Upon hearing the news that Kristen and I had been infected, my first thought was Romans 8:28, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” The reality that God predestined me for adoption and to be conformed to the image of his Son gave me a confidence that this too, no matter how it was going to play out, fit into his gracious plan. Not only did this give me comfort for my own well-being, but for my wife and children as well. This trial was for their good, and God’s glory. We have taken stock in this promise.
The next stage I began to take notice of was when my symptoms were at their worst. By God’s grace my children suffered very mild fevers and were completely back to normal within 24 hrs. My wife, who had symptoms before I did, suffered with a fever and body aches for a few days, but made a relatively quick recovery after 4 or 5 days. I on the other hand, had the privilege of experiencing all the symptoms that are listed in the media. I suffered from fever, aches, a respiratory infection, and had lost my ability to taste or smell anything. On top of all of this my energy level dropped to where walking from my bed to the living room felt like I was running a 10k (I have never run further than this). All I could do was pray and sleep. It is in this stage it dawned on me that one cannot pray new material. I did not have the mental capacity to open my Bible and gain some new insight from the study of scripture. All I had was what I had already hidden in my heart. What came out in my prayers was what was already inside me. It was in the darkest part of this valley that my prayers were the most basic, the simplest prayers I could offer.
Psalm 61:1-2, “Hear my cry O Lord…from the ends of the earth I call to you when my heart is faint.” Psalm 23:4, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death you are with me.” Psalm 62:1, “For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation.”
As I mediated on these phrases, I was struck by what my heart desired the most in the midst the sickness. Of course, I wanted God to heal me and of course I wanted the Lord to protect my family. However, what stood out to me about these verses was what the Psalmist prayed for most. His greatest desire was not healing or rescue, but for a closer fellowship with God in the midst of the trial, in the deep of the valley. This became something my own soul longed for as I laid in my bed sick with fever. I wanted to experience more of God. I wanted God to use my isolation and my sickness to draw me closer to him. And by the grace of God that is what I experienced.
The first day that I began to feel normal again the Lord gave me Psalm 34:6, “This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him and saved him out of all his troubles.” God demonstrated his love and grace to me and my family by healing us from the virus, but even more profound and more eternal was experiencing the close, intimate fellowship with God.
I pray this time of isolation and social distancing will produce in all of God’s children a greater love and dependence on God and a more profound and intimate prayer life. May our fellowship cause us to echo the psalmist when he proclaimed Psalm 73:28, “But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all your works.”
David Martin is the Pastor of IBC Cologne in Cologne, Germany. He is also a church planter and the director of the Aquila Initiative, a ministry dedicated to apprenticing church planters through competency based theological education.