Social distancing, isolation, stay-in-place orders have become the new norms of today’s society.

Businesses, churches, travel have all experienced devastating blows due to the pandemic that is currently taking place.

What is the impact on the church and more importantly, our relationship with God?

At the start of the pandemic and at the beginning of the stay-in-place orders, many of the churches were forced to close down. Of these churches, many of those churches did not have the capability to be able to provide ministries due to the fact of not having the technology nor the funds to incorporate the technology to continue services. Many of these churches have closed their doors because the stay-in-place orders dried up the ties and offerings that would’ve normally sustained the ministries of these churches. The churches that use technology to continue services through social media were able to fare a bit better, however, these churches were also affected due to the lack of ties and offerings and some of their ministries have suffered.

Now this is the true fact: many people are suffering a distancing from their faith because they have come accustomed to staying away from worship, have become accustomed to staying away from places of worship or have become consumed with all the stay in place orders that they are simply afraid to return to worship.

Yes, people do not have to go to church in order to worship God. There are many who are disciplined enough and strong enough in their faith to be able to worship apart from one another. At the same time, there are many who are suffering in their faith because they do not have the discipline, that these people need the social interaction and the discipleship that is offered through worship and in person and are longing for the reconnection, and there is a great need for fellowship just to be able to stay emotionally connected to God and fellow worshipers. These are the individuals who need the physical touch of a hug or handshake, who need to see the smiles and feel their value through the eyes of others, and who need other people to help mentor their faith during. There is nothing wrong with this, in fact, it is highly valued and a great necessity. I always try to promote intimate relationships with God and one another. And when you come accustomed to this; the absence of this has a powerfully negative affect on those who long for such intimacy.

You might be thinking, “Well, if the relationship is that strong, it can endure anything.” Allow me to counteract this with: How many relationships have been abandoned by “growing apart” from one another, either by being too busy for developing intimacy, being absent from one another too long when intimacy was needed most, or by getting involved in relationships which steals you away from one another? Too many examples of this truth are in existence in the world around us. And if it can happen to our relationships with one another, evidence points to the fact that this can and will happen with our relationship with God.

How do we protect ourselves and our hearts in our relationship with God?

If this is what we truly desire this, it will take great efforts on our parts. God has and continually does his part in our relationship with us. This means we commit to devoting time, effort and desire to develop and maintain intimacy with one another. It doesn’t “just happen.” Long marriages, friendships and connections takes deliberate and intense actions to keep it fresh, alive, strong under pressure, and which will last a lifetime. This is what brings the joy, love and the intimacy we long for; with God and one another.

Relationships are like gardens — if you don’t tend to it daily, pluck out the weeds or if you don’t feed it, you’ll never know the fruits of you labors you could have had. You give to it, it returns it back to you. If you long for intimacy in any relationship, you must commit to investing the same level of intimacy you desire.

I can assure you this: you will get back more than you invest, especially with God. I know this first hand and will always share this love and joy with as many as people as I can. Why? Because I love God and I want you to know Him as well. I want you to experience the intimacy with God and one another. I want to show you that disconnection from God never brings joy and love; only heartbreak and pain and a longing for something more. God is that and more.

The Rev. John Boyanowski serves at Pleasant Lake United Methodist Church.

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