Eric Toleafoa: God doesn’t do social distancing

Friday June 26, 2020 Written by Eric Toleafoa Seventh-day Adventist Church Published in Church Talk
Funeral workers carry the casket of a 75-year-old Covid-19 victim from his San Salvador home. AFP 20062507 Funeral workers carry the casket of a 75-year-old Covid-19 victim from his San Salvador home. AFP 20062507

CHURCH TALK: Where is God? He is not distant, he is not absent as we travel through this dark coronavirus valley.


While the world is in turmoil because of the Covid-19 pandemic, we can rest in God’s promise to never forsake us during uncertain times.

The Psalmist testified: “For you are my hiding place; you protect me from trouble. You surround me with songs of victory.” (Psalm 32:7)

In our new coronavirus world, being together has become a rare and treasured experience. As the “invisible enemy” named Covid-19 continues its relentless march around our world, we remain apart from the rest of the world to curb its spread. “Social distancing” has become a strange, new norm.

I realised recently that there’s a major difference between being distant from each other and being absent. Distance keeps us from touching one another, from meeting together.

Though being distant doesn’t necessarily mean that we can’t talk to each other or see one another. Thanks to technology, we can do both.

We may be distant, but we can still stay connected. That’s not nearly as bad as being absent. Absence suggests being alone, isolated, displaced, lonely ... even lost.

Absence reminds me of a story of a man who went swimming in a large lake as it was nearing sunset. While paddling leisurely about 100 metres offshore, a freak fog rolled in.

Suddenly, he could see nothing. No horizon, no familiar landmarks, no lights or people on the shore. For about 30 minutes, he splashed around as panic mode set in. The fog was so thick that he couldn’t even workout the direction of the setting sun.

He would start off in one direction, felt he wasn’t getting anywhere, before turning 90 degrees to his right or left. He felt his heart racing, before blindly swimming out again.

Others weren’t just distant from him – they were absent. He felt totally lost. At last, he heard a faint voice calling from shore. He turned his body toward the sound and swam to safety.

Perhaps during the weeks of isolation you’ve started to feel a sensation of utter lostness, a growing sense of loneliness and displacement. You may be closer to panic than you’ve ever been as the fog of an uncertain future rolls in on you. In unguarded moments, you may have even entertained the idea of asking …where is God?

A similar spirit of fear, sadness, and panic must have gripped Jesus’ disciples when they met together the night before the crucifixion. To their shocking dismay, the Master told them He would soon suffer and die and that He would leave them.

This would have been a huge disappointment for the disciples. They had anticipated Jesus’ reigning as King with them sitting alongside Him. But that was not to be!

Instead, He would be crucified as the sacrificial Lamb. Later, He said, He would return and reign as King, but He gave them no clue about when that would happen. All they could hear was the terrible news: He would suffer, die and leave.

The disciples experienced then what many of us are experiencing today (fear and uncertainty) due to the ongoing threat of Covid-19.

Jesus looked into their fearful eyes and quietly reassured them: “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me.” (John 14:1)

Everything was under God’s control, Jesus promised. His plan could not be shaken or altered. He told them essentially, trust me and don’t be afraid. I’m leaving – but I will return!

In the meantime, we’ll stay in touch. You’ll pray … and I’ll answer. No matter how difficult things become, I’m in full control. You know where I’m going, and you know how to get there.

But, Thomas wasn’t so sure: “We have no idea where you are going, so how can we know the way?” (John 14:5)

Jesus’ replies: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

The disciples, earlier, were restless, struggling, filled with questions.                                                                               

Are you feeling that way today? You may be asking yourself: How bad can this virus get? Can I make it without getting infected…can my family? Will we have enough money and food and other essentials to get by? When will all of this end?

Unfortunately, like Jesus disciples, we tend to focus on the problem and not on the problem solver. We want what we want and not what God planned for us.

And so Jesus encourages us during times such as these…“Don’t let your heart be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me.” (John 14:1)

Let’s agree to trust and not be afraid. Let’s also keep in mind that our God is still in full control, that He is not distant … and He is never absent as we journey through this dark coronavirus valley.

And, finally, let’s remember that we are not alone. He loves us with an infinite amount of love and, therefore, will never release His grip on our lives.

May the praise of Psalm 32:7 be our experience in times such as these: “For you are my hiding place; you protect me from trouble. You surround me with songs of victory.”

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