by Eric Ryan, Pastor of Leadership Development

Well, here we are in week three of social distancing. What’s your experience been like? I mentioned last week that one of the ways I have been reflecting on this time is by looking back on what God has taught me this year to prepare me specifically for the Coronavirus pandemic.
When I was studying Luke 10 and the story of Mary and Martha, I couldn’t help but wonder how long of an emotional build-up Martha had before she asked Jesus to confront Mary. Think about it; as a woman in that culture, and with Martha genuinely believing Jesus was sent by God, it must have taken some time for Martha’s frustration to grow in order for her to be so direct with Jesus.
Did it start before Jesus even got there? Was she hustling around mumbling under her breath? Had she already asked Mary to help out? The scripture doesn’t say, but it would only seem natural for Martha’s frustration to build over time. 

There have been a lot of varying responses to this pandemic. One of the common responses I have been running across in my heart and in the hearts of others is a frustration that stems from a kind of social distancing comparison game.
The extroverts are upset they can’t be around the people they want to be around. The introverts are frustrated that the extroverts have to be around them.
People who still have to go in to work are frustrated that many aren’t even allowed to go in, and those who aren’t allowed to go in are frustrated and jealous of the ones who get to go in for work.
Those quarantined with no kids in the home are lonely, and jealous of those with kids in the home. Those with kids in the home are jealous of those without kids in the home. If you have school aged kids, you are shocked you are having to homeschool yours; and if you have kids who aren’t old enough for school, you're desperate to interact with a human who can focus on something for more than five minutes.
Those asked to stay away are desperate to do something that will directly impact the virus, and those in healthcare are struggling with the idea that they are called to move towards the virus while everyone else is called to move away from it.
What’s my conclusion? Social distancing and the Coronavirus have presented challenges and frustrations for everyone; no exceptions. Julianna and I, having six kids, often get comments from people with less kids less that sound something like this: “Man, I only have two, I have no idea how you do it.”  Our response is typically the same; “Raising kids is hard, no matter how many you have.” Our current circumstances are similar in that this thing is hard, no matter what specifics it has brought upon you.
Back to Martha: did you notice the first part of Jesus’ response? “You are anxious and troubled about many things.” He commented on Martha before even addressing her issue with Mary.
Maybe you find yourself frustrated when you consider what social distancing means for your neighbor and/or co-workers. This week, what would it look like for you to work through those frustrations? Here are a few things it means for me:

  1. Bring it to Christ, and Leave it There- No, actually bring it to Him. Don’t just vent it to a friend or spouse. Don’t just mention it in passing. Bring it to Him. Emotions and all. Martha had the courage to bring it up with Jesus, so should we.
But don’t just pray and walk away just as frustrated as before. Leave it there. If that means you have to do something physical, like writing your frustrations down, then crumpling the paper and throwing it away, do it.
  1. Consider Others, and Pray for Them- Don’t assume you know the details of another’s world. Ask them how it’s been and what has been hard. Maybe you can consider Christians in Italy and other locations who are experiencing things on a much harder level than any of us in Tallahassee or Wildwood.

Whatever it takes, consider others. Call a friend who is still working, or one who is working from home, and walk a mile in their shoes. What’s it like for your single friend, your parents, your grandkids? What’s it like for the senior in high school or the small business owner? What’s it like for your friend who is an event coordinator? Now... pray for them.
  1. Consider the Call, and Take the Next Step- Ephesians 2:10 declares that we are created for good works that God Himself prepared for us to “walk in”. Every opportunity before you, easy or hard, is an opportunity that God prepared for you before you were even conceived. They were prepared for YOU. 

The circumstances you find yourself in are yours, given to you by God. Walk in them. This should give us motivation. We have been prepared for this! Whether it is forced homeschooling, health care in a pandemic, being put on leave without pay, working at home with kids around or fighting a mental fight against loneliness, God has equipped you with everything you need to walk through it. Believe it, then take the next step.

Nothing is gained when we allow ourselves to grow envious of others’ circumstances. At some point Martha tried to address it by bringing it to Jesus. I would imagine His response wasn’t exactly what she expected to hear. 

This morning I was reminded of a similar interaction in John 21:21. Peter has just been told, by the resurrected Jesus, a little about how he would die. His response was to ask Jesus, “What about John?” Jesus responds: “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” 

I like to repeat this response from Jesus when I grow envious of another’s circumstances. God has laid out my good works. He has ordered these days of mine before they arrived. If He chooses to make social distancing easier or more enjoyable for someone else, what is that to me? My job is to follow Jesus, moment by moment, one step at a time. Hang in there, friends!

Eric Ryan
Leadership Development Pastor
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