One of the things that has amazed me more lately is seeing how different the experiences of Christians have been the past year and a half. In some cases, that’s caused friction and arguing, but I would propose a different way of looking at it.
Rather than walking through a one-size-fits-all situation and thus only knowing how to share a one-size-fits-all solution, the Body of Christ has been equipped to minister and help people out of a variety of situations. Rather than being limited only to one generic experience, we’ve been formed into a well-rounded Church, prepared to minister to diverse needs and give the same comfort that we have each uniquely and communally been given.
The past year and a half, I lived with someone who was at high risk for severe COVID-19 symptoms. This person talked with their doctor, and it was decided that the wisest thing for them to do was to stay “quarantined” until doctors and scientists could learn more about how to effectively treat COVID-19.
The purpose of this post isn’t to debate right vs. wrong ways of handling current events. I wanted to share a little bit about how the isolation can affect people, though, because I’ve felt and am hearing from people who are struggling as they try to get back to some degree of “normal.” Sometimes struggling to readjust, but other times struggling more with the comments made by Christians who didn’t have to make the same decision.
What Happens During Isolation?
You walked through the struggles you faced too, and none of that is minimized by what I’m going to explain next. This is purely for informational purposes for this particular context in case it’s helpful:
- Being isolated from friends and family that you love messes with your head. You begin to feel more and more like an outsider as time goes on, especially with the help of social media. You can tell yourself that logically those feelings aren’t true, but the emotions and thoughts can still be a struggle to work through.
- Having your faith or decision-making called into question by other Christians is really frustrating. Especially if they haven’t taken the time to actually understand what led to your decision. The condescending tones aren’t constructive, and they often miss pretty important details around why someone made the decision they did. While I don’t think that’s the intention of most people, it hurts when it comes from people you care about.
- Not everyone stayed away to “hide” out of fear. Now, that is the case in some situations, but even that isn’t helped by talking to someone like they’re stupid. If a person withdrew to protect someone, don’t put yourself in the spot of pressuring them to gamble with their loved one’s life.
- People leaving isolation may be dealing with things that surprise them as they try to get back to “normal.” They might not be themselves at first, but that doesn’t mean it has anything to do with you. One of my biggest frustrations was finding that I stuttered and hesitated more than I used to, which only made me dread going places more. Smells that used to be normal also brought back memories from years ago, and the wave of nostalgia that came with it was super weird sometimes.
- I guess this kind of goes for everyone right now, but some people might be a little more sensitive to snarky comments than they used to be. Getting asked “Where have you been?” over and over stings, even though I get why that would be a natural question to ask.
If you find yourself unsure of how to welcome people back, sometimes the best way is just to give a genuine smile and let them know you’re happy to see them again. But if it isn’t genuine, I mean it when I say it would be better not to say anything other than a simple hello. People don’t need to be talked down to when they have already been fighting the feeling that they don’t belong.
Does It Really Matter?
This doesn’t put it into words the way I wish I could, but it’s the gist. It might all sound really weird to people who have been out and about – I don’t blame you for thinking that. But I’ve heard this from enough people to know that it’s something that is affecting other people and ought to be shared for anyone who wants to understand it better. Some people are too embarrassed to say anything, so they’re struggling with those feelings by themselves.
In my case, I was blessed to be a part of a church that offered online services and weekly Zoom Bible studies the whole time. Those helped immensely. Not everyone has had something like that the past year and a half, though, and I can only imagine how much harder it was in those cases.
And please know, this isn’t to say that people should be spreading themselves too thin to accommodate everyone else. There is a lot going on for everyone. But even when we don’t have the energy to go out of our way to be there for others, we can still refrain from the comments and behaviors that may cause people to have a harder time getting back to normal.
Being Thankful In All Things
It has been weird making certain decisions the past year and a half, especially with how vocal Christians were over the “right” way to handle everything. I’m thankful, though, because I really don’t think this is something that can be easily understood unless you’ve lived it. I’m thankful for the chance.
Just as God has used different situations to equip other parts of the Body of Christ to minister to people, I believe He will also use the experience of believers being isolated to help other people come out of it too – if we let Him teach us the right way to respond:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” – 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (NASB)
The isolation was maybe less common or accepted among Christians, but that doesn’t change the fact that people around the world still went through it and will need help getting out of it. Isn’t that what we’re here for?
As we keep communicating and working together, we build a community that is equipped and well-rounded to reach people from all backgrounds and circumstances. That’s part of the beauty in the diversity of the Body of Christ, and that’s also why it’s so important to refrain from judging a fellow believer who may have needed to walk through situations differently in order to help others out of it too. If you have sincere concerns, have a respectful conversation before jumping to conclusions. Extend the same grace that you would like extended to you.
Here’s to our journey, friends.
Let’s remember that life isn’t about controlling one another and their decisions.
Instead we are to encourage each other in God’s Word, bearing with the weak, admonishing the unruly, and remaining fervent in our love for one another as the Church is built up stronger.