This week’s blog is written by Matthew Fisher who is having to self isolate, for health reasons, in his home in Telford away from his wife and two daughters who are staying in another house in Bridgnorth. It is so helpful to read stories like Matthew and his family’s at this time. It helps us to appreciate and pray for many in our communities who are in similar situations, but also Matthew gives a biblical reflection on the lockdown – thank you Matthew for writing this for us…
Who’d Have Thought?
On Tuesday 28 January a long-standing friend visited our new house as they had travelled to England from China for Chinese New Year. As we ate a very British lunch they mentioned an easily spread but not very potent virus that was causing problems in their city south of Shanghai. To be honest, I thought no more of it as we discussed the usual topics of family, football, church and the unreliability of satnavs before waving them off. I never would have guessed that fewer than seven weeks later I would receive a letter headed ‘Important Advice to Keep You Safe from Coronavirus’ from the NHS telling me to stay at home and avoid all face to face contact with everyone for at least twelve weeks.
So, as I write this I have just poured a small box of government delivered cornflakes into a cereal bowl. A box of food is placed on my doorstep every week by someone who knocks on my door and disappears before I can say “thank you”. My family temporarily moved out the day after my ‘shielding’ letter was written because Rachel, my wife, is a nurse in Telford Hospital. (They are staying with family in Bridgnorth.) Whilst this may not be your exact situation it is extremely likely that we all have a relatable story to tell about these most unexpected times.
There is no shortage of advice for dealing with the ongoing Covid-19 outbreak from both the Church and the World. Most suggestions are either spiritual or practical. During my first few weeks in isolation I have begun to learn that this is not a simple choice and neither do I view the answer to my survival during this time as having entirely spiritual or entirely practical solutions. Let me clarify. I kept reading that these three months were a great opportunity to learn new skills and that we should make the most of our time. With this in mind I set myself three optimistic goals for the next twelve weeks. I planned to write my Thesis on Victorian Ritualists, learn lead guitar and get good at darts. So far I have improved my darts but everything else has fallen by the wayside.
I have experienced greater sadness and more loneliness than I thought I would. We are usually a noisy household with Beth and Esther home educated, all of us play musical instruments we laugh a lot (about anything) and have a dog, Barney, who demands our attention every few minutes. I am not generally an emotional person but being alone when I was not used to it quickly began to consume my every thought.
I increasingly felt condemned as I scrolled through spiritual social media posts showing that everyone trusted God more than I did. I was sleeping terribly and found that I did not want to eat anything. As a Bible-believing Charismatic this did not seem to add up. It has taken both spiritual and practical steps to try and break this cycle. Practically, I decided that some form of routine was a good idea and that I would start every day by making my bed. I then choose Saturday as the day to do my clothes washing and Rachel has arranged a rota of people to video call me so that I see a different face every day. I speak to Rachel and the girls a lot, keeping in contact with their whole day. In the evening we all play a game together across a video call. If you want any advice, because there is not enough of that, then Boggle works best on video call.
I absolutely believe that God is much kinder than any of us think. Perhaps He is just kinder than I think. As I was unable to sleep and not keen to eat I still knew the things that were true about God before Covid-19 had not changed. It did not feel like it, but we serve a God who is the same yesterday, today and forever: One who has never let His people down, ever. That is why as I felt miserable and alone I knew that God could be really trusted.
I was reminded about Shadrach Meshach and Abednego (Daniel 3:16-28) whose lives looked in all practicality they were about to end. They knew that their God, the same God as ours, was able to miraculously rescue them from the dire situation they were in. But they would continue to worship the true and living God even if He did not rescue them. This is the faith I pray that God would grant me.
As I looked through my Bible I saw the verses where Jesus is asleep on the boat and His disciples, some of them experienced fishermen, fear for their lives as a storm rages up to engulf them. The peace that Jesus displays in this situation and His resolve that His Father has everything under control is amazing. This is how I wish I trusted God.
Even during the storms of my life I hope and pray that I would be fully trusting in the God who is never taken by surprise. As I thought on the goodness of a God who rescues, I heard Scott Krippayne’s song ‘Sometimes He Calms the Storm’ and began to realise that throughout history God has sometimes taken away difficulties and trials immediately. Other times He allows the storm to wash over His people, but they are never destroyed. It is at these moments, like Covid-19, that I pray God gives me, and you, a peaceful heart to know that He “holds me close while the wind and waves go wild”.
One of the priests I study as part of my academic work was ahead of his time in realising that the boundaries between physical and mental health are blurred and not easy to distinguish. I have come to realise that missing my family and being lonely is ok. Surely we are made for fellowship and to be in relationship with each other. I look forward to the day when we can all be in the same room again! In the meantime I pray that I would have confidence in a God who will never leave me and that I will trust in His goodness to rescue His people, and I pray the same for you as well.
May God grant us wisdom to look after our physical, mental and spiritual health. The much used verses in Philippians 4:6-9 are appropriate for guarding our hearts and minds at this time. May our faith would be fully in the true and living God of The Bible, the only One who saw Covid-19 from afar and promised to never leave His people.
Links to ‘Sometimes He Calms the Storm’