Love in the Time of Covid

January 25, 2021
Photo art by: Jenni Keast

Love in the Time of Covid: Now more than ever, people need to feel the tangible presence of God’s love

“For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another” (I John 3:11).

Show God’s Love. That’s what the “writing on the wall” admonishes us to do. It’s a lovely sentiment, but more often than not we either don’t do it very well, or we don’t do it all. We either see the need, and ignore it, or we may feel that tug of compassion, but we somehow allow ourselves to get distracted by the busyness of life.

In our hi-tech, low-touch world, all too often that “busyness” takes the form of “shiny objects”—most notably our e-devices and the virtual world it lures us into. It’s a Pavlovian-designed competition for our attention—numbing us to the actual life and death drama that is unfolding before us. Compounding the situation is a mass depersonalization resulting from a Covid-created construct of isolation and masked malaise—leaving us disconnected from other humans in desperate need of divine intervention.

As we pray for a welcome end to the lockdowns and the letdowns, let’s also ask God to give us what the the old-timey Pentecostals used to call a “burden for souls.” By asking God to give us His heart for the hurting and broken, we will then be equipped to do what Jesus Himself did during His three short years of ministry on this earth. As the Son of Man, Jesus was only able to do what He did because He was intimately acquainted with His Father: “I speak to you timeless truth. The Son is not able to do anything from himself or through my own initiative. I only do the works that I see the Father doing, for the Son does the same works as his Father” (John 5:19-21)

Jesus’ “works” were all about reaching out to the lost with the message—and demonstration—of the Kingdom. Covid may have limited the ways we reach out, but it hasn’t eliminated the need for doing so. If anything, as history races towards its final chapter, the need to share the “God so loved the world” message is greater than ever—despite the social constraints. After all, “six-feet apart” is nothing compared to an eternity spent apart from God.

With this in mind, perhaps the best prayer we can pray each morning is this: “Lord, your Word tells us that it’s the goodness of God that leads to repentance. So, today I ask you to draw me to that ONE person who desperately needs to know how good you are. And as you do, I ask that you lead me to do or say something that would specifically mean love to him or her personally.”

Trust me, this is a prayer God loves. It’s also a prayer that He’s 100% guaranteed to answer.

After all, He’s more concerned about seeking out and loving on “the one” than we are! “If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it” (Luke 15:4)?

These Boots Were Made for Talking

I have a vivid memory of one rather unique answer to this specific prayer. One day God told me to take a pair of $400 boots I had just snapped up for $6.00 at a thrift store and instead of selling it on eBay, He told me to give it instead to my Pilates instructor.

The thing is, Jillian, my instructor, didn’t need the boots. She had a lot of money and could afford to buy her own $400 pair of boots. I, on the other hand, really needed the dough. So it didn’t seem logical. Or frankly, all that equitable. Then I suddenly remembered I had prayed for Jillian just two days before that—asking God to reveal to her how much He loved my Jewish friend in a way that would mean love to her, personally.

Even so, I balked at God’s directive—at least initially. I told him, “Oh, these boots are probably not her style and they most likely won’t fit.” I’ll never forget how the Lord responded to that unspoken thought: “You’re missing something here. Whenever you go to the thrift store, you get excited about finding those “hidden treasures.” These are objects of your affection. But those people who are lost, who don’t yet know Me, those are my “hidden treasures”—and they are far more precious than gold.” Ouch! Or should I say, Ouch, Halleluiah!

Jillian and her boots. Happy cowgirl!

Not surprisingly, those boots were not only the exact fit, they turned out to be Jillian’s favorite brand. Upon my putting them into her hands, she jumped up and down like an excited child who just found out she was going to Disneyland. “Why are you just giving these to me?” she asked incredulously as I kept refusing her money. “Because the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob told me to, and He’s crazy about you!” I replied.

It seems those boots were made for talking and that’s just what they did. Through a simple act of obedience (which was painful at first), I was able to share God’s love for my friend in a unique and personal way.  That’s so God!

To Seek and Save

I don’t know who that particular person, or persons, who God will decide to put in front of you. I do know that He loves the outcasts—which is pretty much anyone outside His family.  A “left behind” mindset is not in His theology. In His world, there are no stragglers. He’s left us the job of finding those people outside the door slumped in the doorways, running down the street and—rich or poor—who are crouched in the cave of their own complicity. To find them and bring them home to the Father. The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

Your “any” might be a single mom working a second job as a waitress to make ends meet. She was about to have her electricity cut off … until God lead you to leave her a generous tip—revealing the God who provides.  Or it might be a “bag lady” whose shopping cart just tipped over in front of you while you were rushing to get back to work.  She was used to feeling invisible, but you showed her she was truly seen as you helped her pick up her stuff. Then again it could be a CEO just finishing up a call in a coffee shop where his wife had just told him she wants a divorce and by the way, she’s taking the kids. Suddenly you were able to see the sadness behind the suit. So, you bought him a coffee and drew up a chair.

In all those scenarios you might be surprised to discover that though your situation is different, you, the single mom, the CEO and that homeless woman are the same. On some level, each of you have suffered loss, hardship, disappointment, disillusionment, pain, and rejection. Those moments of discovery are humbling—they also will make you a more compassionate human.

Down in the Boondocks

Giving does take some sacrifice—of our time, our resources and sometimes even our mood. You may be feeling down in the dumps and the last thing you want to do is help someone else out. And yet, the simple truth is when you do step out to help another human being—be it through a word of encouragement, practical help, a prayer or simply being there (presence is huge) you will feel good. That’s because in the act of giving, of being a willing conduit of God’s unfathomable love, you’re opening up a way for God to show His love for you through that person. You might be surprised at how often He does that, and the way in which He does that.

I experienced that reciprocity just over a week ago. I was having a tough time. My mother had been just released from the hospital and placed into a critical care home. Stricken with Covid, she was confused and angry—even spewing forth expletives to the nursing staff. I wasn’t even allowed in to see her. In addition, a close relative, a co-worker and a friend had just died of the virus. Then there was my eldest daughter who was struggling financially because the pandemic had caused her industry—filmmaking—to shut down. She’d been out of work for months. On top of that, I couldn’t seem to get on top of all the stuff I had to do—I felt overwhelmed.

As if my personal woes weren’t enough, I was feeling the weight of all the anger and offense in the atmosphere. It was like our country had plunged into 1930s Germany where suddenly out of nowhere evil seemed to have the upper hand. Even worse than the world “raging against the machine,” we had Christians offended at other Christians—spending hours on social media giving their considerable, often angry, opinions on how other believers should be talking and behaving during these tumultuous times. (I was not immune to leaving a derisive comment or two … in the name of truth, of course. 🙃)

Sure, God was on his throne but down here in Whoville all was not right with the world. It felt like the Grinch had stolen not just our Christmas, but our nation’s entire moral foundation. Just as King David had asked numerous times in the Psalms, I found myself asking, “Lord, why do the wicked prosper?” And why are your children “biting and devouring one another” with such ferocity?

All this stress—from the world within and the world without—was robbing me of my peace.  My body felt heavy, my joints in pain.  It was in that depressed state that I dragged myself up on a job-related task to the women’s recovery house.

Sit. Listen. Love.

As I sat down with one of the recovery ladies (I’ll call her Anna), she asked me if I wanted to join her and the other ladies for lunch.  Did I? Not really. But I realized in that moment that it wasn’t about me. That I needed to be there just to be there … to show that I cared and not just because my job “required” it.

During our lunch, Anna thanked me profusely for taking those “amazing photos” of her for our newsletter. That’s when I remembered her coming into my office and interrupting my focus. I had responded that day with a dismissing, terse comment. What I had failed to realize in that moment was what that photo had meant to her. Although it meant little to me, for her, it was an outward expression of the beautiful inward work that God was doing in her heart.

And I had almost missed it.

That lunch yielded more encounters with the ladies that bonded me to them in a deeper way—simply because I had taken the time out of my busy workday to sit, listen and love.

 One on One – That’s How It’s Done

Needless to say, I experienced a lot of joy that day and, surprise, surprise all the physical pain I had been experiencing that morning suddenly disappeared!  The same thing happened several months earlier when I went to a homeless encampment just to hang out with some of the folks and talk to them, to hear their stories.  I was feeling down but I went anyway. Before long I forgot about my own problems, and the heaviness on my body had completely lifted.  God gave me the gift of perspective.  And trust me, it is a gift.

“God has sent me to … comfort all who are in sorrow,
to strengthen those crushed by despair …
to give them a beautiful bouquet in the place of ashes,
the oil of bliss instead of tears
and the mantle of joyous praise
instead of the spirit of heaviness” (Isaiah 61:2-3).

The lessons here are clear.  What we do to bring God’s love to others—even when we don’t feel like it—make that especially when we don’t feel like it—is huge to God. He honors that sacrifice. Just as important, we need to relieve ourselves of the burden that He’s asking us to go out and do something BIG in impacting the world.  No, he’s simply exhorting us to impact our world … those people he’s put right in front of us.

There only a few Billy Grahams in the world and most of us will not be one of them. Instead, it will be one of us and … the woman at the wellthe centurion with a dying daughterthe demon-possessed man the woman caught in adultery. One-on-one, that’s how it’s done.

A Limitless Love

When we allow ourselves to be a conduit of his tender mercy and radical love for hurting people— in whatever way He leads us to do so—then we are truly bringing His Kingdom down to earth. As we faithfully obey His voice to “always do those things I see my Father do” –each and every day—He will bless us in ways we can’t even imagine. Not just in the hereafter when we receive our eternal rewards, but in the “here and now.” “The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully” (I Cor. 9:6).

Is it easy to “sow bountifully?”—of our time, our resources and our hearts? Of course not. Even Jesus wanted to hop in a boat to escape the teeming crowds with their pressing needs. And you can be sure it wasn’t a banner day for him when all of his disciples abandoned him during the hour of His greatest need. Likewise, imagine how challenging it is for those staff people here at the Mission who pour out everything they have to help those in recovery build new lives—only to see some of them foolishly choose to crawl back into the dark holes of addiction and abuse.

Sure, you might have more losses than wins. But nothing takes God by surprise. Jesus Himself knew what was in each man’s heart and yet He still kept loving them—yes, even the ones who betrayed Him. Every word of life, every act of love was a seed sown. We have that same love—a limitless love He’s placed inside each of us. Because of this DNA (Divine Nature Acquired) we’re fully equipped to handle loving the unlovely and to keep on loving beyond our own human limitations.  We simply make the choice to show up and be fully present, allowing Holy Spirit to reveal the Jesus people might not otherwise see. The results are up to Him. – jenni keast

About the Author:

Jenni Keast is our marketing content coordinator and a lover of jean jackets, the Great Outdoors, photography and all things mid-century.  Her favorite authors are Holy Spirit (the Bible) G.K. Chesterson, C.S. Lewis, Leif Enger and Walter Isaacson, to name just a few.