By Elizabeth Prata
“May you live in interesting times”.
You may have heard this phrase attributed to the Chinese as an ancient blessing. It’s actually a curse, that living in UNinteresting times is more of a blessing than so-called interesting ones, which usually involve war, famine, or other disruption of some kind.
It never was a Chinese saying at all, whether curse or blessing. The closest the phrase came from is remarks made by Frederic R. Coudert at the Proceedings of the Academy of Political Science, 1939:
Some years ago, in 1936, I had to write to a very dear and honored friend of mine, who has since died, Sir Austen Chamberlain, brother of the present Prime Minister, and I concluded my letter with a rather banal remark, “that we were living in an interesting age.” Evidently he read the whole letter, because by return mail he wrote to me and concluded as follows: “Many years ago, I learned from one of our diplomats in China that one of the principal Chinese curses heaped upon an enemy is, ‘May you live in an interesting age.'” “Surely”, he said, “no age has been more fraught with insecurity than our own present time.” That was three years ago.
We are living in interesting times. We have been strongly advised, in some cases mandated, to self-isolate (a new term) and to practice social distancing (another new term) in order to prevent or suppress the spread of a highly infectious flu called COVID-19 from the family group of influenzas known as coronoavirus (more new terms).
This self-isolation may take 2 weeks, as our school initially shut down, then for 3 weeks as they extended it, or until July or August as the President indicated as this week’s Press Conference, or as the Imperial College report on which the President and the UK Prime Minister based their decisions, 18 months on and off. We just don’t know. For now, this is the new normal.
For introverts, those already living alone, or who don’t have kids or other family, it isn’t a huge burden to self-isolate. It isn’t for me. But I haven’t trumpeted it, because I know that for many others, it’s a strange and difficult situation. Some I know have college age children across the country who must now drive home alone. Widows with time on their hands to be minute-by-minute reminded of their aloneness. Others have aged parents in the nursing home and are missing them dearly. Others have older parents with underlying conditions that make them more at risk for being impacted by the virus.. No matter if you’re an extrovert or an introvert, this situation impacts us in many different ways. It’s a stressful time.
But it’s an opportunity also. I have been praying to Jesus for opportunities to bring Him glory and to be an encouragement to others. Whatever your sphere of influence is, you can do this as well.
For Christians, it is a time when we can actively practice peace, relying on the promises of Jesus. Hebrews 5:13-14 says
or everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. 14But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.
If you are on milk, then bone up. NOW is the day you get serious. If you are on meat, practice your faith. And HOW do we practice it?
We remain calm. Of all people in the world, we have an eternal perspective. We have no fear of death. We have certainty of eternal life. We have Christ our all in all. We have the hand of God upon us. Whom shall we fear? A microscopic virus? No. Our fears have been resolved by Jesus at the cross.
Yes, anxiety exists, we worry for family and kids and the future. But stop it. Calm and peace in the face of the uncertainties everyone else is feeling will shine ever brighter. If we indeed have the peace that passes all understanding, (Philippians 4:7) then we need to display that peace so others will notice, and we share the Gospel.
If you live alone, I understand that you might be concerned. If your psychology isn’t structured for extended alone time, then do all you can to be actively engaged. Facetime family. Write letters. You can order stamps through the PO online and they will deliver the stamps, no need even to go there. Get online and email people, do Facebook. Call someone at regular intervals just to chat or arrange to have someone call you. Get involved in your hobby to pass time.
If you are a Christian, you might be concerned about extended time alone. But you are NOT ALONE. You are not alone. Jesus is with you. I know it doesn’t feel the same as if your husband was there or your adult children or anyone else. You say “I want to talk with someone.” Talk to Jesus. You say “I want someone to talk back to me.” Jesus talks back to you in His word. It is living. It is active. It speaks to you uniquely.
when we read Scripture, we are not downloading information from a distant source, then having to unscramble it for ourselves for use in our daily lives. Scripture communicates in a way appropriate to our design as people who dynamically respond to the world around us. Source TableTalk: Your Three-Dimensioanl Bible
You are not alone. Now is the time to practice training yourself to enjoy that peace that is available from Jesus.
If you are not a Christian and you’re reading this and stuck with it so far, the way to peace, eternal perspective, clinging to the truth of a bright future, is to repent of sins. The nagging dread and fear you have is because you know you are going to die (someday) and you know you will have to face a Holy God for your life. (Romans 1:18-20). You dread it because you know you sin. The penalty for that sin is to be sent away from the presence of Jesus to endure punishment for those crimes forever.
God made a way for us to escape that, by sending Jesus to live perfectly and die as the sacrifice for those sins. HE endured the wrath due sinners. So now all you need to do is ask Him to forgive yours and He will. He can permit you entrance to heaven as a holy person because God now sees you not as a sinner but through the veil of God’s righteousness, which He gave to you when you repented.
You can obtain the peace that you see other Christians exuding. You can have it.
Brethren, stay strong, cling to Jesus, be peaceful, content in whatever circumstance, read your Bible, train yourself for the time to come, for the time is now.