A couple of weeks ago, I woke up, surely convinced I had become infected with the Coronavirus. I had just returned from a weekend in which we met with workers from all over the world, some from infected areas. I felt the symptoms of a fever with sweating, anxiety, and nausea. After being left alone with my thoughts since I first woke at 3:00 a.m., around 5:00 I was trying to figure out who you’re supposed to call to get quarantined. (You know the saying, “Go big or go home”? When it comes to my emotions, I’m rarely home.)
My husband got up at 6:30 and saw me sitting in the recliner. I told him I thought I was really sick. I had been trying not to vomit. My husband, after living with me for 25 years, said, “Sweetie, I think you are having anxiety over the situation.” I had just experienced being rejected by a couple of close friends. But surely that couldn’t cause these symptoms. No way, I thought to myself. The Lord delivered me from the fear of rejection years ago.
A broken heart had just wrecked me. Earlier in my life, I had walked the path of rejection, experiencing panic attacks, sleepless nights, nausea, and an upset stomach. So I shouldn’t have been surprised that my current symptoms were related to feeling rejected.
We had just returned from Iraq barely a month earlier. We were there when Turkey was invading North Syria. We were close to the border. At night we would sit in the living room, watching on a local app how close the bombing was getting to us from Turkish airships and drones. I had peace. It makes me laugh looking back as we described how many miles it was from us (not many), and we had complete peace. How can you have peace so close to literal bombs, but when it feels like an emotional bomb goes off in your life, you feel the need for people in hazmat suits to show up at your house to be quarantined?
After spending time with the Lord, He revealed to me I was infected with a virus, but it was not the Coronavirus, it was the need for approval. The previous day, some close friends had made judgments about me that felt very unfair. I was in denial of how bad it had hurt me. It felt like the words David penned in Psalm 55: “If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if a foe were rising against me, I could hide. But it is you, a man like myself, my companion, my close friend, with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship at the house of God as we walked about among the worshipers” (vv. 12–14, NIV).
The impact of emotional stress on the body is stunning. So, although the hazmat suits were not necessary, the quarantine was. I needed, and have been needing, alone time with Jesus. I’ve needed it for a long time now but couldn’t get myself to silence all the chaos. The needs of others felt too great and heavy to slow down. But when we go to the Word, we don’t see Jesus falling into that trap. Jesus would frequently put himself in quarantine. Right after the disciples came and told Jesus that John the Baptist was beheaded in Mathew 14:13, “he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place” (NIV). Even though Jesus knew that would happen, He didn’t press on as usual. He still withdrew to a place of solitude after receiving emotional news. We see many examples of Jesus withdrawing from the endless needs of the people to spend time with His Father in Heaven. He would do a brief time of quarantine with only His Father in order to remain healthy.
What are some practical steps for quarantine? These are just a few examples of what I have felt the Lord encouraging me to do lately. I’m sure there are plenty more. The good news is once you quiet the noise of the crowds, you will be able to hear better from the Lord of what your time of quarantine should look like for you and your individual circumstances.
1. I put my phone on “do not disturb.” Obviously, you can’t do that at work, but anytime you’re not at your job, I highly recommend it. It’s not that I completely ignore messages; I just bring my phone back to prehistoric times of the 90s when people had to actually wait for you to check your answering machine. Remember those? (My younger friends can google it to get a visual.) It’s been amazing not having constant notifications going off throughout the day. I have my family on my favorites list; their calls and messages can go through the do not disturb. I had no idea how much I am notified of things that aren’t urgent.
2. I’ve enlisted an accountability partner. While I wait to build my self-control muscle of not checking social media and the Internet, I hand my phone to my husband. He just went through something similar and has been doing a great job of being quiet before the Lord. I’m seeing such a difference in him, his attitude and responses to people and stressful situations. I know many of you may not have a spouse or friends in a spiritually healthy place to provide that encouragement for you, so pray and ask God to provide a friend. After all, two are better than one (Ecclesiastes 4:9).
3. Spend unrushed time in the Word. When I send the crowds away and I’m not chained to my phone, whether answering messages instantly or just scrolling through the endless sea of social media or news pages, I found I don’t have to rush my time in the Word. I’m not sure where the saying came from of “If you find a Bible that is falling apart, it tends to be owned by someone who is not.” But I have found that to be true in my life. (Bible-phone-only gen., sorry, but you get the idea, and if not, phone a friend and ask for help.)
When you read the Word, you find that even Jesus took time to quarantine himself from the needs of others on a regular basis. He didn’t stay full-time immersed in the needs of others, nor did He stay full-time in solitary quarantine. Ask Jesus to help you balance the correct ratio for your life. (See Mark 1:35 and Luke 5:16 for a couple of examples. Please go on your own treasure hunt for more!)
4. Spend time in worship.
5. Journal.
6. Read a Big God story.
7. Save room for laughter. I’ve been enjoying drybar comedy on youtube. Laughter is good for the soul and is more effective than sit ups at burning calories! (that last part may not be true but definitely more fun than sit ups.)
While at a leadership meeting, I shared with one of the women how rejection, whether real or only perceived as such, can be a blessing. I don’t have one example of it not producing good fruit in my life. It’s funny how I would get an opportunity to be walking it out just days later. It’s been painfully good, because clarity is being found here. Most importantly, I found my first love waiting for me here in the quiet (Revelation 2:4).
So my friend, if you find yourself in a similar situation, may I recommend a time of quarantine? Carve out time from your schedule to focus on what the Lord has for you. Be brave! You will be so glad you did.