Several months since Covid-19 restrictions began in the UK, Open Doors' Emma looks back on lessons she has learned from the persecuted church.
I’ve found the last few weeks and months pretty intense. I’ve felt stretched. It’s all been a bit of a mental and emotional rollercoaster. In our house, we’re working from home, doing school from home, and church from home. Social routines and patterns of behaviour have had to change. As lockdown begins to ease, I’m looking back on what I’ve learned.
Very early on in lockdown, I realised to survive and thrive in this season - and to not waste it - I needed some help. I needed some guides. Some mentors, if you like. And those most persecuted for following Jesus - persecuted Christians - are the best placed to do that. You see, for them, isolation, confinement and restriction is the norm; it’s nothing new and it’s usually not temporary. It’s in this context they do life and live out their faith in Jesus. Over the past weeks and months, pretty much the whole world experienced isolation - what we've experienced is not persecution but hopefully it's given us greater connection and empathy with those most persecuted and hit hardest by the pandemic. They really need us right now, as persecution and lockdown have a devastating effect on communities already isolated, marginalised and oppressed simply because of their faith in Jesus.
So, throughout the weeks of lockdown, I have deliberately immersed myself into their stories of courage and faithfulness during trials and hard times. Quite simply, persecuted Christians have so much to teach us – they’ve reminded me to lean into Jesus, to look up, look forward and not look down in hard times, and to use this season as an opportunity to deepen my faith.
I came across this recently from a Chinese house church leader: ‘Don’t let a good crisis go to waste.’
My natural instinct was and is so see this season of coronavirus as a threat; it’s a disruption, it’s presenting discomfort and challenges (although I’m very thankful that largely my family and I are very sheltered from the full impact of lockdown – so many have experienced loss, serious health and financial challenges and disappointments). But somehow seeing this season through the lens of the persecuted church and God’s perspective can make it an opportunity. Somehow the lesson from those most persecuted is that they flip it – the threat becomes an opportunity; a gift even, however counter-cultural that sounds. None of us expected 2020 to turn out like this... but maybe Covid-19 can be an experience that can shape our faith, an opportunity for growth. Perhaps it will turn out to be a gift that will shape our church, communities and families for years to come.
During the last few weeks, I’ve been sharing my journey of lessons in lockdown with Eddie Lyle, President of Open Doors UK & Ireland. In the video at the top of this post, you can take a look at what we’ve been learning about thankfulness and cultivating gratitude in hard times.
And do keep praying for and supporting our persecuted brothers and sisters for whom Covid-19 has been an added crisis to the difficulties and obstacles they already encounter. As we begin the slow path back to normal life, let’s not forget the persecution they continue to face.
Lord, please continue to strengthen our persecuted family for whom isolation is nothing new and isn't likely to end. As they suffer for following Jesus, please show them Your love, intimacy and protection. As we pray for them and learn from them, may You unite us as one global body of Christ.
You can view more lessons in lockdown videos on the Spring Harvest YouTube channel.