How To Thrive in Quarantine

Sunday, April 19, 2020

It has been a while, they have been quarantined away from everything they know, they feel like the past is so distant and they miss all those things they used to have. The foods, the tastes, the experiences. They don't know how long it is going to take until they go back to some kind of normalcy. Every day they wake up and wonder... how much longer? It has been difficult, living down to the bare minimal. Eating the same thing every day. No, I am not talking about us. These are the Israelites crossing the desert towards the promised land. Except their quarantine lasted forty years, not forty days as the term "quarantine" means. 

Forty years, can you imagine that? Suddenly reading the stories about the Israelites complaining in the desert is like placing a mirror in front of my own face. I used to think how spoiled they were acting, not trusting God and missing things like melons. And yet, here I am, after a few weeks of quarantine with enough food to make any Israelite jealous, complaining about the lack of melons. Funny how we think highly of ourselves until difficulty hits, and then we realize that we are actually much worst than the Israelites and would probably not survive one day in the desert!

Influenced by a multitude of gentiles who also came out from Egypt with them, the Israelites also started to complain about their misfortunes, they complained about eating manna (the daily bread from heaven), about the lack of foods like fish, cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. And they were punished by God for complaining. Why? Because they were being ungrateful for all the good that God had done for them, rescuing them from Egypt where they were slaves and destroying all their enemies after dividing the Red Sea in two. They forgot the privilege of having God's very presence in their middle and the fact that he was leading them towards the promised land!

As much as we humans enjoy complaining, first it doesn't solve any problem and second it places ours hearts in a position of ungratefulness. How can we give thanks and be ungrateful at the same time? The Israelites had a miracle happening every morning in the desert when the manna appeared. Yet, their taste buds wanted more seasoning and less miracle. How sad when our eyes become blind to the miracle!

Moses had a strong word to the Israelites, "When the Lord gives you in the evening meat to eat and in the morning bread to be full, because the Lord has heard your grumble (or complain) against him - what are we? Your grumbling is not against us but against the Lord." Exodus 16:8

Ouch! Every time we complain we are blaming God for not giving us the perfect life we expected. We forget all that he has already given us, when he sent his son to die for us on the cross. When he created us in his own image and gives his own Spirit to live inside those who believe in him. But we forget, and we want more seasoning and less miracle.

We have been complaining for a while. The very first man Adam after disobeying God was ready to complain. "The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree and I ate." Genesis 3:2 And since then, we have not stopped.

As I read the Bible, I realize that complaining is not a proper attitude towards God. He says, "Do all things without grumbling (or complaining) or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as light in the world." Phi 2:14

I have yet to feel better after complaining. The truth is that the more I focus on my complaint list, the more miserable I feel, and yet when I focus on my thanksgiving list, I actually feel better! God does not tell us to stop complaining because he wants us to suffer more. He instead wants us to experience his goodness in full. He wants us to realize that nothing compares to his presence, and if the Israelites filled their mouths with melons, onions and garlic they would still feel ungrateful. Because their ungratefulness did not come from their stomachs but from their hearts. 

God loves us so much that he gave up his son to be quarantined away from him. Jesus chose to come down to this world as the baby of a poor teenager. He chose to quarantine himself away from heaven into a life of difficulty, lack of comfort and eventually painful death. And he never complained, even when he spent forty days in the desert without food. Why? "Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God." Heb. 12:2

Jesus understands what it feels to suffer, to go through difficulty, and he tells us "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." Matt 11:28

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16

What are you thankful for today?