Social distancing isn’t spiritual distancing
With the number of closings and restrictions coming to us from the CDC and our governor, we are all grieving these days. One area in our lives that can experience growth not grief is our spiritual lives through a practice of spiritual discipline. We can actually gain understanding, connection, wisdom and peace over fear, uncertainty, and anxiety.
Many of us could be thinking that when the words spiritual and discipline are set side by side that this unlikely duo is a misnomer. Spiritual and discipline? What? The two are complete opposites!
Spiritual discipline? Isn’t that an oxymoron? Spiritual is free, gratifying, and amazing. Anything spiritual is life- and soul-giving. It cannot be contained.
And discipline? That’s hard, cumbersome work.
Spiritual discipline is an intentional practice. Anyone who has spent time considering and praying through Lent, for example, has practiced spiritual discipline.
Oswald Chambers offers an insight into what spiritual discipline is. He writes, “We can all see God in exceptional things, but it requires the culture of spiritual discipline to see God in every detail.”
Chambers speaks to what we can all do (or are doing) during these troubling days: we can see where God is. We can use our particular circumstances or, even better, we can intentionally look beyond our own immediate strains and struggles to see where and how God is with us where we are. We can meditate on scripture. Here are two.
The first is James 1:2-4. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
The second is Philippians 4:6-7. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
We can also repeat hymn lyrics or Christian music over and over and, in this spiritual discipline, experience a fullness of God we have not reached before. All of this, including an active prayer life, constitutes a spiritual discipline.
Perhaps in these stressful days you’ve disconnected with Christ, even temporarily. You are not alone. You may be socially distanced but never need to feel spiritually distanced.
Yes, without spiritual discipline it is easy to lose focus. Our hearts and heads can be pulled and pressed by temporal things. Yet with Christ, we can rejoice that we have a merciful and gracious God who, from love, is constantly, continually renewing us.
Returning to Lent, God is gently and assuredly reminding us of the great price paid for us. As we have to be socially distant at appropriate times now, we can take time to preach the gospel to ourselves. We can also take time to reflect upon Christ privately and, like Christ himself, go off and pray privately.
These uncertain times can make something absolutely certain for you, and that is that Your God is with you now and always.
This blog first appeared in The Susquehanna Independent on March 25, 2020.