In the fall of 2011, I spent five weeks away from my family in Zambia. Five weeks. For those who have been deployed overseas or have had long-term remote assignments, you understand (probably better than I) how challenging it can be. While we were able to communicate and keep in touch during that time, it just wasn’t the same thing as being under the same roof.
These days, all of us are experiencing this feeling of apartness (and perhaps aloneness) through social distancing. I don’t need to tell you that “air fives” and mock embraces over FaceTime just don’t suffice for the real thing. As my coworker exclaimed yesterday in an online meeting, “When this over I’m going to give each of you a GREAT BIG HUG!”
Hers is a common sentiment. We all yearn for face-to-face contact. Something about being eye to eye and shoulder to shoulder makes our personal connections even more real.
Jesus recognized this truth when he was about to depart this earth, and he knew the impact that leaving would have on his disciples. So he warned them of it beforehand, but he also comforted them and even encouraged them about the impending social distancing:
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”
— John 14:1–3
In Jesus’ mind, physical distancing was necessary for a period of time so that his people could repent and be healed of the virus of sin. But he promised this separation would not last forever. And he gave us a Comforter to be at our spiritual bedside to bring us back to health until that day when we finally become who we were made to be.
“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.”
— John 14:16–18
The Spirit of truth — of wholeness, wellness and completeness — is both our Helper and our Reminder that we will one day be reunited with him beyond this world of pain and death. As a result, the social distancing we are currently experiencing from Christ does not mean spiritual isolation.
How can we stay connected with Christ if we can’t be with him physically? God’s word gives us the prescription a few verses later when Jesus says:
“Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” — John 14:21
As we work to overcome this virus of sin in our lives, we cannot neglect the spiritual regimen of obedience and faithfulness to God’s word if we hope to be victorious. While there is no vaccine, there is a cure, and it is found only in him:
“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’”
— John 14:6
So don’t wait for the end of Christ’s social distancing before connecting with him. When he finally returns, it will be too late to start down the road to recovery, and the disease of sin will have taken its final, ultimate toll. Rather, accept his diagnosis now, get to know his Spiritual Therapist, and experience true healing in knowing and loving him.
And when this coronavirus social distancing is over, you’ll be in a much better place to reconnect with those you love — especially the One who loves you more than you can think or imagine, virus and all.