March 26, 2020

Forced to Observe Lent - Marnie Pohlmann

I don’t know what the situation with the coronavirus and Covid-19 will be when this post shows up for you because the news changes daily. At the time of writing this, we are to wash our hands every 20 minutes, stay two meters apart, self-isolate, and one site even says to avoid singing in a group.

For me, as an introvert, social distancing and self-isolation are like a dream. Sign me up! Yet for extraverts, all this may range anywhere from an inconvenience to extreme torture.

I have been thinking about how each of us tries to do our part to stop the spread of this new pandemic. As a writer, are others intruding on your creative space? As a Christian, are you struggling to find a balance between concern and faith?

As Spock from Star Trek said, “The good of the many outweighs the good of the one.” This time is one for which this quote applies. We are to sacrifice our own wants and needs to protect others, from the most vulnerable to those who continue to serve our communities.

Sacrifice goes against our natural grain. We have become, or rather always were, a society that wants what we want when we want it. So now, to be asked to share toilet paper and limit where we can go can be a new and uncomfortable experience.

The season of Lent gives us an opportunity to practice this very form of sacrifice. Not giving up what we choose to give up but by seeking ways to isolate some time alone with God and finding ways to sacrifice by serving someone else. The purpose of Lent has never been to simply give up for a short time a vice that would be good for us to give up anyway. Lent is a time that is meant to change us for good, and forever.

Lent is a time to focus on Jesus. An opportunity to focus on when He set down his Crown in Heaven to become man, to live a human life, to enter ministry focusing on others, and to die. At the end of this time of Lenten focus, we celebrate Christ’s resurrection. On Easter Sunday we remember how Jesus defeated earthly death, freed the prisoners, and became, on our behalf, the pure sacrifice needed to allow us to enter God’s presence. Lent is a time to identify with how Jesus served others, sacrificially.

At the beginning of His ministry, when Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness, Satan taunted and tested Him. I see three areas that Satan used to tempt the Lord. Physical needs - food (Luke 4:3-4); emotional needs - riches and power (Luke 4:5-8); and spiritual needs – knowledge of Truth (Luke 4:9-13.) During Lent we may also sacrifice in these areas by giving up a favourite dessert, giving rather than taking, or spending more time than usual in Bible study. You may not usually take part in Lent but consider this present pandemic isolation as a “forced” lent.

Physically - give up some foods that you like – you may not have a choice about this, as grocery stores are unable to restock their shelves as quickly as they sell out. Give away excess (toilet paper) that you may not need.

Emotionally – consider others; those who are in the same situation as you and those who are continuing to serve your community. Staying together at home can be difficult for families when they are not used to being in one another’s way for this long. Mind your tongue. Be considerate. Don’t whine. Protect one another from illness by practicing good hygiene.

Spiritually – use this time apart from others to delve into God’s Word. We may not understand some Scripture or be mistaken in our thinking. Be open to God correcting your viewpoint by showing you what He means and desires from you on a personal level.

Social distancing and self-isolation are in direct contrast to what God instructs for His people. We are to “not forsake” gathering (Hebrews 10:25.) We are to be a family, a community, part of One Body. We are not to be afraid of persecution, illness, or death. Martin Luther said to be Christian was to not run away from a plague, while exercising common sense.

We must obey the laws of our land (Romans 13:1) and we must also not forsake one another. It may be safer, at this time, for churches to close to reduce the spread of Covid-19, but it is also sad, that churches are not available to those needing comfort and hope. How can we gather while remaining apart? Is it enough to watch an online sermon on Sunday morning?

Here are a few suggestions for maintaining Christ-focused relationship and community. 
  •  Phone the seniors of your congregation or community. Our older members often treasure gatherings of the church on Sundays and during the week. They may not have a computer to visit with someone online. They could become very lonely when isolated.
  • Check with the young families, as Moms and Dads worry about their children. You may be able to offer some reassurance from Scripture.
  • Do an online or phone Bible study with a teenager, to strengthen their faith during the uncertainty of these days.
  • As the weather allows for outside time, be available to talk with your neighbour over the fence or from across the road. Be purposeful in your conversation.
  • Meet, but in smaller groups of 5-50, as your Province allows. Try to maintain physical separation as much as you can and remember to wash your hands. And of course, if you have even the slightest symptom or may have been in contact with someone who may be sick, stay home.

We can try to ensure no one feels they are alone. I’m sure you can come up with many ways to offer the Hope of life in Christ during this time of illness and death that is causing so much fear throughout the world.

Some military spouses turn the porch lights on when their loved one is deployed and do not turn it off again until their safe return. Some communities are placing red hearts in their windows to encourage those walking by that they are not alone; we are in this together. Can we as Christians offer God’s comfort and salvation to our church family, our neighbourhood, our community, and the world?

I suggested we could keep our porch lights on. My husband suggests we hang a scarlet rope, ribbon, or banner on our home, like Rahab did to declare she believed in God (Joshua 2.) This will not keep our homes miraculously protected or free from the coronavirus, but will declare we are willing to go beyond the concern and fear to assist another, offering the Peace we know as our Lord Jesus Christ, and if able, to fill a physical, emotional, or other spiritual needs.

We are forced to practice sacrifice this Lenten season, and this may continue past when we usually celebrate our salvation at Easter. As Christians, we can willingly sacrifice for the good of the world, like Jesus did.

Be the church.


  1. Love the Spock quote. (Of course!) I laughed when you said as an introvert this is a dream! And now you get to work from home out of the cave you are used to, so its a double bonus! On a more serious note, I appreciated the tips you shared.

  2. Many great tips here! A positive I've noticed since social isolation is that many are, including my church community, reaching out more than ever before, to stay connected. And I am receiving messages almost daily from others who I generally did not hear from on a regular basis. People are intentionally trying to connect in whatever way they can. I love your idea of keeping the porch light on. I've seen Christmas lights on too!

  3. Thanks for your wise integration of observing Lent with an emphasis on personal care, restraint, reaching out to others, and maintaining a time with the Lord. Your words of encouragement are relevant during this time. I'm also praying that many people will turn to the Lord during this time.

  4. Thanks for your very thoughtful post, Marnie, and for your good suggestions. I love your husband’s idea of the scarlet ribbon or rope. I’m wondering what I have in the house that could be repurposed for this.


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