Alan from behind looking into the distance

Absence Makes the Heart Grow

This is based on material written for my recent memoir, The Lie Called Cancer but left out of the book.

A three-minute read

When the UK restricted everyone in March 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, I was considered a vulnerable person because of receiving cancer treatment in 2019. I was told to stay a home for twelve weeks and not go out, under any circumstances.

After a week of it, I was still saying Humph! Humph! about the idea of being medically vulnerable, but I’d get over it. It turned out it wasn’t a problem, it was an opportunity to build my faith. It was not only an opportunity for me, but also for the church.

Now, in October, 2020, we are back into another round of restrictions. For many of us it continues to be hard, especially for those who have lost loved ones, are separated from family and friends, feel financial stress, or in a myriad of other ways have had their lives disrupted. At the very least, it’s continually annoying.

When everything in life is going bonkers, when what we count on crumbles, when it’s unclear what the next steps are, we can always count on the one unmoveable: Jesus Christ. I have faith that the long-term effects of these lock-downs will be good.

Lukewarm Christians, in it for religion not relationship, will either be winnowed out or lit on fire. Those of us already on fire will see our flames rise higher. The gospel will be preached. Christ’s kingdom will advance.

By being physically apart from one another, we’ll come to know deeply how much we need one another. Ironically, through separation, we’ll grow in intimacy. The church that emerges from this will be on fire for evangelism; we’ll have a fresh desire for prayer and intercession.

We’ll be eager to share the message of Jesus.

People will ask us, ‘What happened?’ and we will simply answer, ‘God was faithful.’

I’m in the book of Jeremiah in my annual cycle of reading. It’s such an excellent pairing – better than the right wine with a gourmet meal. It’s made for this lock-down season.

‘The Lord says, “Now I will show them my power; now I will show them my might. At last they will know and understand that I am the Lord.’ *

Let me be quick to say that I’m not suggesting that God is responsible for the outbreak of a new virus against which people apparently have no natural immunity. All such things are the work of the devil.

However, I believe God may permit these things to provide an opportunity for growth. He certainly steps into the middle of all such situations to continue His work.

As the aftermath of this crisis falls out, if we look at it through the lens of opportunity, instead of relegating it to problem status, His glory will be revealed. There will be events through this season that will demonstrate His power. At least for those who have eyes to see it.

Finally, let’s not think of it as ‘lock-down.’ Think of it as exile, like Israel’s exile in Babylon. Because good things always come out of exile.

* Jeremiah 16:21 (NLT)

Photo: Rachel Richards

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