Gather

“He will feed His flock like a shepherd.
He will gather the lambs in His arms
and carry them close to His heart.”

Isaiah 40:11

We were told not to gather for worship.
No meetings, no working together, no family meals, no happy hour.
No hospital visits, no congregating in public spaces, no hugging.

Some are truly suffering with this sudden, added strain of isolation. Maybe it’s taking its effect on us all. Loved ones can’t receive hospital visits. The elderly neighbor no longer gets out and about, and no one comes in. For those living alone, working at home, the hours become very long, indeed, and the walls are closing in on them. I read that medical and mental health professionals are seeing a dramatic rise in anxiety disorders and depression. Suicides are on the rise also. The Coronavirus has sharply escalated the effects of an epidemic already in place – loneliness. Just when we need each other the most, there are ordinances keeping us apart.

While cities and governments tell us to shelter in place, God is breaking all the boundaries. When we are not allowed to reach out, He is reaching in, gathering us to himself in the time of our great need, because that is his nature. He is a God who draws us to himself.

Isaiah 40:11 tells us, “He gathers his lambs in his arms.” For those who feel the ache of being separated from loved ones, for those who are feeling weak and vulnerable, for those who think they are alone – He is gathering us to his heart. There we can feel his heartbeat. In that rhythm we know we are loved and protected, and beyond a doubt – not alone.

Zephaniah 3:19 tells it to us in another way. “At that time I will gather those who have been scattered.” I wonder if this time of sheltering-in may be helping us who have been scattered in other ways – strung out with an excess of peripheral activities and responsibilities. I wonder if our hearts have been scattered – torn in so many directions, that we no longer know the way to peace. We can no longer discern what it is that calls us deep from within. I wonder if, in this imposed quiet time, we might find the true source of the One who is calling our name again, if we sit and listen quietly for a moment. Oh how Jesus has longed to gather us to himself! (Matthew 23:37) He has come to find us in the places where we have isolated ourselves and to carry us home.

As we move towards Holy Week and Easter, we are acutely aware of the feeling of being separated from our people. How much more we see the need for Jesus’ work on the cross, the work that would redeem and draw us back into God’s powerful embrace, transcending all matter, space and time.  He came to gather our scattered hearts back to his own. Let us let him carry us there.

“Do not fear, O Zion;
do not let your hands hang limp.
The Lord your God is with you,
he is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you;
he will quiet you with his love,
he will rejoice over you with singing.”

“The sorrows for the appointed feasts
I will remove from you,
they are a burden and reproach to you.
 At that time I will deal
with all who oppressed you;
I will rescue the lame;
I will gather those who have been scattered.
I will give them praise and honor
in every land where they have suffered shame.
At that time I will gather you;
at that time I will bring you home.”

 Zephaniah 3:17-20

I want to share one more thing with those who are suffering in this epidemic. In 2015, I published a book called “Hand in Hand, Walking with the Psalms through Loneliness”.  In it I share my profound belief that God is very near to us during these times, and that we are not alone. Do you know someone lonely, feeling unusually isolated, far from home, or scattered in there inner being?  I invite you to click here and purchase my book for them. How much we need to hear the hopeful and encouraging message that God is with us and will never forsake us – now more than ever!

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