If you are one of the many who has to be in quarantine or isolation for a few weeks (or months for some), then I want to encourage you to use the time well. People have literally changed the world from being in isolation. Let me tell you about a few of them:
The great reformer spent 11 months in isolation at Wartburg castle, where he was held prisoner by Frederick the Wise of Saxony for his own safety from May 1521 to April 1522. In just 4 months he translated the whole New Testament into German and after his release, he went on to work on translating the Old Testament. The whole German Bible was finally published in 1534. Luther’s whole focus was on this work sparked a movement across Europe for the Bible to be translated and read in the people’s mother-tongue. Wales and England were one of the first nations to have the Bible translated into the language of the people (Welsh and English). He used his isolation well.
In the mid-seventeenth century, John Bunyan was initially imprisoned for 3 months with the threat of extending it if he did not conform to the Act of Uniformity and desist from preaching. He refused to give up preaching and his imprisonment extended to 12 years which
was spent at Bedford County Gaol. Having access to writing materials, it was in prison that he wrote Grace Abounding and began writing his most famous work, Pilgrim’s Progress, which became the best-selling book of all time after the Bible. He used his isolation well.
To read about what the ‘Prince of Preachers’ Charles Spurgeon did during a cholera outbreak, click here.
Charlotte ‘Lottie’ Moon
Lottie’s isolation was a little different as it wasn’t strictly being isolated in the true sense of that word. She was a Southern Baptist missionary to China in the late nineteenth to early twentieth century. She brought hundreds of people to the faith and consistently helped to fund missionary causes by pleading with the Southern Baptists and also by (unbeknown to others) using money from her own pocket. She took regular furloughs to rest and argued all missionaries should do the same as it would prolong their lives and make them more effective.
Perhaps we could take a leaf from her book and use our isolation to rest and recuperate. Let’s renew our energy so that our days might be prolonged and our effectiveness as missionaries where we are would improve. She used her isolation well.
Corrie ten Boom
Corrie, a Dutchwoman, was arrested for hiding Jews and resistance workers from the Nazis during World War II. She was caught and arrested, being sent to prison. She was held in solitary confinement for 3 months before being taken to her trial. At her trial she explained how her work helping the mentally disabled (a part of her work as well as being a watchmaker) was the work of God – the Nazis responded in laughter because they were killing the mentally disabled. She stood her ground and was sent to a concentration camp for women’s labour. At he camp, Corrie contributed in leading secret worship services after a long working day with a Bible that was smuggled in. By God’s grace, she was released 15 days before the other women were sent to the gas chambers.
Being a Calvinist Christian in the Dutch Reformed Church, after the war she used these experiences and had a worldwide ministry through in multiple countries where she spoke about the forgiveness of sins through Christ. She used her isolation well.
Martin Luther King Jr
In 1963 Martin Luther King Jr. was arrested and imprisoned under harsh conditions because he and others were protesting the treatment of African-Americans in Birmingham, Alabama. He used his isolation to write his Letter from Birmingham Jail which was an open letter defending his use of non-violent resistance against racism. The first part of the letter was written in the margins of a newspaper and the rest on scrap paper which were given to his lawyers to be taken to his secretary for publication.
Being a pastor himself, he considered his time spent in prison an opportunity to be transformed into glory. He compared his situation to Moses’ where the only way Moses could get the Israelites to the Promised Land was by God’s power. He would suffer so that the discriminated could be free. He used his isolation well.
The Apostle Paul
Before he began his ministry he did not go to Jerusalem (where the other apostles were) immediately, but went to Arabia for 3 years (Gal. 1:17-18) to be taught by Jesus (Gal. 1:12), in isolation for much of that time (Gal 1:16-17). Thus, like the other apostles, Paul studied with Christ for three years before beginning his ministry. Paul also spent a lot of time in prison. He wrote a number of the New Testament letters from prison (Ephesians, Colossians, Philippians and Philemon) – a place of isolation. He used his isolation well.
The obvious example of Jesus being isolated is the Cross. Christ was set-apart and suffered alone for the sole purpose of redeeming his people – to remove their suffering so that the elect can be brought into a relationship with God. Another example is being in the desert for 40 days to be tempted and show his power of Satan and sin. In addition to the cross and the desert, at various times during his ministry, he separated himself from others for a time in order to pray to his Father. This is important—that for short periods, it is good for Christians to isolate themselves for the purpose of spending time with God on a personal basis – I don’t mean that it’s good for Christians to stay away from Church, but rather, for short periods during the week it’s good for us as Christians to turn off our mobile-phones, T.V and computer to isolate ourselves in a quiet room with the word of God. Jesus used his isolation to bring us into a relationship with God and into a community; the Church.
What can we learn from this?
The active decision to isolate oneself for extended periods is not good for a Christian (Prov. 18:1; Heb. 10:25; Gen. 2:18). A Christian is saved into the Church and should, therefore, participate as a member of it. The Christian should crave fellowship with others. However, in times of persecution and suffering, one might be forced into isolation. We have been advised to self-isolate if possible, especially if we are vulnerable or have symptoms of Covid-19. So, it would be in our best interest to heed the advice of our government (Romans 13:1-7). If the government asked us to cancel our meetings and services because of systemic persecution against Christianity, we would not listen. So, in our obedience to the Lord, my hope and prayer is that we would use this time wisely by devoting a lot more time in prayer and studying the scriptures. By God’s grace, we will awake from this isolation ready to put into practice what the Lord has been teaching us having been changed and transformed in the Spirit’s work of sanctification. May we isolate well.
Written by: Pastor Gwydion Emlyn