What people in the Bible can teach us about getting through Covid-19

(Photo: Unsplash/ToaHeftiba)

I don't need to tell you that for many the current lockdown has been a pretty challenging experience and it should come as no surprise to learn that some people seem to have bent every mental sinew in an attempt to subvert or at least to 'interpret' the rules.

Time alone will tell whether Dominic Cummings' visit to Durham will become part of pandemic folklore, but I was even more impressed by one ingenious guy who was living in a homeless hostel in London. He was told that he was not allowed to take anyone into his room and so he thought he could get around that inconvenient restriction by smuggling his girlfriend into the hostel inside a very large suitcase!

I've spent a little time thinking about a few Biblical characters who experienced various forms of lockdown, too, because I believe they have something to teach us even if we do not have a personal faith in God. Take John the Baptist. He was imprisoned for daring to challenge Herod Antipas for his many misdeeds, including his marriage to his brother's wife. His subsequent imprisonment clearly threw him into a state of confusion and made him wonder if his cousin Jesus really was the long-awaited Messiah.

That's not an uncommon experience. Tragedies and disappointments can easily tempt us to question the existence and the goodness of God. John teaches us that we can ask Him if He really is there, and why He is allowing bad things to happen to us. Indeed, lockdown might be a good time to voice those doubts and pose those questions. After all, we've got nothing to lose.

Joseph, of 'Technicolor Dreamcoat' fame, has much to teach us too. If anyone had good reason to complain it was Joseph. However, in spite of being sold into slavery and imprisoned on a false rape charge, Joseph continued to exercise his faith by helping others. Joseph could easily have wallowed in an ocean of self-pity but he didn't and as a result ended up governing Egypt.

There are times when we can feel sorry for ourselves, and we can be tempted to think that we can do very little to help others but as Sir Tom Moore has shown us recently, we can all so something, and there are times when that 'something' can have the most extraordinary results.

Imprisonment was a familiar experience for the apostle Paul also. But when we read his letters, especially the one he wrote to the church in Philippi, it soon becomes apparent that he was far from being despondent; he was full of joy. So, what was his secret? Several things stand out for me, but none more than his statement that it was because that church was praying for him. They were separated by nearly a thousand miles, and they had no access to the internet or even a telephone but they believed they could connect through prayer. We should never forget this: even when we are in lockdown we can have an impact hundreds, if not thousands of miles away.

I can't finish without mentioning the apostle John. He knew what it was to be confined also. Exiled on the rocky scrub known as Patmos, John challenges us to think about those who are in lockdown because of their faith. Teenagers like Leah Sharibu, for example, who has just marked her third birthday as a captive of Boko Haram because she refuses to turn her back on Jesus.

Like so many others, Leah is displaying what John calls 'patient endurance'. She is 'hanging on in there' because she is confident that she will win in the end. And I believe that's not a bad attitude to adopt as we move into the next phase of lockdown.

Rob James is a Baptist minister, writer and church and media consultant to the Evangelical Alliance Wales. He is the author of Little Thoughts About a Big God.