Closing the Distance: Reading the Scriptures in Isolation
Have you been unable to go to church for months? Or are you just getting back into the swing of things after being cooped up at home during the quarantine? You’re far from alone, even though it may feel like it. Many Christians all over the world have been, or are in, the same boat — wanting to go to church, Mass, small groups, and other church activities but forbidden to do so because of the pandemic. It can feel very lonely.
I think many people have felt isolated in one way or another for much of this year. But, in reality, we are far from alone. If you have a Bible, you’ll find story after story of men, women, and families who suffered isolation and distance from the ones they loved.
Distance and Isolation in the Bible
If you are one of those who feel distant from your friends and family during this challenging time, it’s not hard to understand why. For months, we’ve endured limited social contact. And when we could leave our homes, we’ve had to be aware of keeping the proper distance from other people. This isn’t normal, yet it happened in the blink of an eye. And all of us have been forced to adapt in one way or another. Yet, amazingly, when we turn to the Scriptures, we find that distance and isolation are common themes in the history of salvation.
Abraham, hearing the voice of God, leaves his home and sets off in faithfulness to wherever God leads him. Moses flees into the desert after witnessing the terrible way the Egyptians treated his people. The prophet Jeremiah is in anguish over the destruction of his country as his people are driven into exile. Queen Esther sought isolation and prayer when the lives of her people were put at huge risk in her country. And Jesus’ own mission finds him isolated and alone on the cross at his death.
Still think you’re alone? Distance and isolation are no small parts of the history of salvation. By recognizing these stories in the Bible and sharing them with our family, friends, and those around us, it lightens our burden just a little. We aren’t the first ones in history to live through isolation.
Social distance can give the impression that we are all living in different worlds, perhaps only connected through video conferencing. But that’s far from the truth. The Body of Christ is always united, always connected and working together — the Bible gives us plenty of examples of this. The early Church leaders were often scattered preaching the Word of God, yet they remained steadfast in their mission — writing letters to each other, sending messengers, and always praying.
God Was There Then and He is Here Now
Even though reading the Bible and pondering the words of God is no substitute for Mass, social gatherings, or church activities, reading the Scriptures as a family helps us orient ourselves more closely to God’s word. It’s no small thing to recognize that so many other people have gone through challenges similar to what we face today. Granted, Biblical times were long ago and things are different now, but it doesn’t take away the fact that God was there then and God is here now.
Have you considered that maybe distance and isolation are part of our own salvation journey, like they have been for so many holy men and women before us? Scriptures turn our attention to the God who is hidden, who saves us in the midst of perceived absence.
But our stories don’t end there. Scripture goes on to reveal a God who is always near and full of love for His people. By reading the Bible with our loved ones, we can remind each other of that love and be examples of grace and love to one another.
The story of Jesus’ redemptive love for his creation is so vast, so incomprehensible. God sent His only Son to us, a fallen people, who for so long were separated from the Lord. He physically became human, closing that distance for a short time, and left us with the greatest story ever told, the greatest love of all.
If you are hurting and feeling alone during this tough time, crack open the Bible. God closed the distance in Scripture in such incredible ways. We can be reminded of his love for us and believe, in the hope that surpasses all understanding, that God will close the distance in our own lives.
Jon Stotts is the director of adult formation for Christ the King Catholic Church in Nashville and Catholic spokesperson for Catholic Bible Press.