Connected In the Spirit
May 17 Acts 17:22-31 * Psalm 66:8-20 (UMH 790) * 1 Peter 3:13-22 * John 14:15-21
We have all been aware of the need for guarding our health and the prevention of the spread of the coronavirus. As the weeks have dragged on, it is also becoming clear that we need to do all that we can to protect our mental health, also. Especially now that we are not able to meet, we need to be diligent in new ways to provide the blessings we may have been taking for granted: loving connections providing encouragement and acceptance, fun times together sharing our lives, singing and worshipping together, etc. We rely on such things to sustain us, and their sudden absence of can be very unsettling. For those of us not yet able to enjoy retirement, it is a very uncertain time indeed. And even if we are relatively safe and financially stable, the amount of suffering in our world is staggering, and seeing the misfortunes of others is sometimes more disorientating than our own. Many people are certainly questioning their faith, and need our support, but many others are renewing their faith and taking comfort in connecting with God. For us, it is necessary to continue praying, reading Scripture, connecting with each other as we are able, and doing what connects us to God in individual ways, strengthening our hope in Him and enjoying His presence at home. Jesus tells us:
If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you. I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them. John 14:15-21
Even though we may be staying at home with loved ones, perhaps feeling too connected to them at times, most of us probably feel disconnected and isolated right now. We miss those we love who are distant and miss the opportunity for those fun connections with new people as we go about our daily lives running errands and going places. But in the Spirit, we are connected beyond physical distancing, and connected to those outside of our current reality, connected with all the saints everywhere on earth and those already in Heaven. The Spirit is within us, providing comfort and encouragement. As Jesus is in the Father, He is in us, and we are in Him. Though distant, we are in each other’s hearts and share an eternal connection than nothing can sever. As Paul says in Romans 8:
you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. And if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who indwells you…for all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are children of God. For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us… But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
In Christ we are more than conquerors, and in the Spirit we carry the power of God leading to salvation, even when our mortal bodies may not be as young and healthy as they once were. We have access to eternity and connection to the Living God right now, able to enter His presence with joy and thankfulness whenever we need it. Taking the time to do so will give the boost our mental health needs right now. One practice that I have found very beneficial is to start the day thanking Him in prayer for all He has done for me, entering His presence and basking in His love. It helps me to start the day with a positive attitude and the peace to face our current reality. I would love to hear what is helping you to feel connected to God and to live courageously. God has carried us through past trials, He will get us through this one. But we must do our part also, following Jesus’ commandments and worshipping God in whatever way we can. As children seeking to love our Father and know that we are pleasing to Him, this is a time to seek him with the greatest diligence and expectation. We still live in this fallen world and our problems won’t go away as quickly as we would like, but in the Spirit we are given the confidence to overcome, and until then, the Spirit gives us the comfort and strength to carry on.
In our reading from Acts 17, as Paul shares the Gospel to the Athenians, he tells us that we were created to seek God:
From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him–though indeed he is not far from each one of us. For ‘In him we live and move and have our being’.
Seeking God is not just a matter of following rules and being good, it is about the calling we all have to honor and glorify Him, seeking to know Him well and live as He commands but also to seek His presence, spending time with Him and resting in His love. In that love is our beginning, our present, and our future. We must always seek Him diligently or risk losing our sense of connection to Him and even of falling into sin.
What do you think? Do you feel that God’s love can fill that hole we currently feel that our loved ones can usually fill? God also made us to be physical beings who find fulfilment in physical expressions of love and connection. Can anything take its place? If we were in church, I would ask for your opinion here! It’s a hard question, and we certainly don’t want to feel like we are doubting God’s provision or love. But doing without physical contact is something we may have to adapt to, knowing that it will affect our emotional and mental health. On the other hand, our human love can never be allowed to take the place of God’s love for us. We need to pray that what we feel we have lost to the necessity of staying safe and healthy, He may fulfil in some other way. He knows what we need and will fill us with His love.