Quarantined for Lent

“Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you 
and that you may be in good health, 
as it goes well with your soul.”

These words, written from a pastor to his church family (3 John 2), perfectly express my thoughts and prayers for you during this unprecedented season of our lives. Look at it again:

Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you

Yes, I pray that all may go well with you as we travel these uncertain days together. Our world has turned upside down, hasn't it?

Some of us are out of work; others have more than we can handle. Some of us wonder what happened to our
investments; others are wondering how we will pay this month’s bills. Some of us are enjoying our free time, and some of us are going stir crazy!

We are all spending a lot more time at home. Generally speaking, that’s a good thing; I hope you’re making the most of it. Are you getting your home projects done, or are you finding excuses? Me, I’m still ignoring the weeds.

I imagine you’re doing a lot more home cooking, and enjoying the outdoors even more than usual. These are good things, too.

All in all a lot of good can come out of this unwelcome season in our lives. With normal activities suspended, we can focus on simple life-affirming things: a walk in the desert, time with our loved ones, home-cooked meals, focused prayer, and face-to-face (or Face time) conversation.

Yes, in the midst of these uncertain times, I pray that all may go well with you. In addition to that....

Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you
and that you may be in good health

Frightening predictions for the growing pandemic felt far-fetched a few weeks ago, but are now confirmed by our government. No doubt, we still find it hard to believe and difficult to fathom: 100 to 240 thousand deaths if we are extremely careful, and adhere to strict guidelines?

What are we to do about this? Whatever else we do, let us pray for good health.

Let us pray for one another, our household, our church family, and our friends. Let us also pray beyond our circle, and include the many around this world who are suffering through this crisis.

Let us pray that none of us will be infected. Let us pray for God’s healing power to work in the lives of those who are. Let us pray for the safety of medical teams who put their lives on the line to save our lives. Let us pray that adequate equipment and resources will be available to everyone who needs them.

Let us pray that efforts to control the spread of the virus will be effective. Let us pray that people will take personal responsibility for the health of others.

Let us pray, using the Lord’s Prayer as our guide.

First, let us focus on God, who is “Our Father,” and not merely “the Almighty One.” We are his beloved children, and he cares for us.

With that in mind then, let us bring our petitions to him. Ask him for our daily provision, for his gracious forgiveness, and for his deliverance through this time of trial.

Remember, too, that these prayers are communal, not merely individual: “Give us our daily bread,” etc. Bring the concerns of the entire world to our Father in prayer.

Finally, as we close our prayer, let us affirm our confidence that God holds our life and our future in his hands: “For thine is the kingdom….”

It is for good reason God's people have prayed this prayer throughout Christian history. Let us pray it to together. Let us pray that we all will be in good health.

Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you
and that you may be in good health

as it goes well with your soul

This final petition reminds me of the beloved hymn called, “It is Well with My Soul.” Perhaps you know that it was written in response to an horrific tragedy, when H.G. Spafford’s children were lost in a shipwreck. Seeking to cope with his grief, Spafford wrote:

When peace like a river attendeth my way
When sorrow like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot Thou has taught me to say
“It is well, it is well with my soul”

Difficult times are often our best opportunity for spiritual growth. When the props of financial security and physical health removed or at risk, we are forced to examine priorities: “Where is my ultimate hope?” “What is it that matters most in my life?” "If everything is taken from me, what will I have left?"

Yes, I pray that all will go well with you, and yes, I pray that you will be in good health. But beyond all that, I pray that it will be well with your soul.

We are in the midst of the season called Lent, a time of self-examination in preparation for Jesus’ death and resurrection. Generally, we prepare by giving up things which today seem almost trivial: coffee, desserts; meat; etc.

In this season of life, we are temporarily giving up our jobs, our freedoms, our social interactions – even our worship gatherings. These are very difficult to bear.

Let us not waste these difficult days by neglecting the opportunity it provides us to put our souls in order. Think of it as our lenten preparation for the death and resurrection of Jesus, who suffered on our behalf so we could be set free from sin and selfishness.

When we find ourselves complaining during this time of confinement, let us repent of the self-centeredness we see in our hearts. Let us respond in faith and thanksgiving for God’s gracious gift of forgiveness purchased for us on Calvary.

Let us develop spiritual habits which will strengthen our souls not only today, but for the rest of our lives. Let us embrace our calling to be God's New Creation people: a community of whose faith, love and hope are a healing balm in these uncertain days.

In a culture which has lost its footing
           let us be people of FAITH
In a world full of fault-finding and finger-pointing
           let us be people of LOVE
In a society stuck in fear and uncertainty
            let us be people of HOPE

In a word, let us be people who can honestly say,

Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say,
"It is well, it is well with my soul."



(Last week I ran into a YouTube channel which posted albums from the choir I sang in while in college. This recording of “It is Well” was a favorite of ours back in 1980. Hearing it again brought back many fond memories; I hope you enjoy it, too.)
It is Well (Azusa Pacific Concert Choir, 1980)