Relationships, You & Your Family

Social distancing and safe connections

Social distancing and safe connections

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected us in so many ways. Around the world, millions of deaths have been reported and an unknown number suffer the ravages of long COVID. The economy has been in a tailspin with businesses shutting down, many losing jobs and others forced into unpaid leave for months on end.

As I am not a medical expert, I am not going to speculate if and when Singapore’s COVID-19 case numbers might rise or fall. Amidst the cacophony of opinions and predictions of how things will pan out as well as the shifting sea of information that has left many confused and despairing, it is helpful to be reminded of some truths or things that do not change.

An area where many have been hit, and in which I have some expertise, is our emotional and mental health. Anxiety, depression and interpersonal conflicts have risen as a consequence of living in such trying times. One big contributor to these ills is the uncertainty and loss of control over the future. These are factors we may not be able to address directly or any time soon.

However, what compounds mental ill-health is the loss of social contact and connection as face-to-face interaction with family and friends has had to be cut back to protect ourselves and others. This brings to mind the truth that as human beings, we are made for connection; that within us is a special need for relationships.

In these times of social distancing, some of us are fortunate to be able to harness technology to stay connected. In fact, some have reached out to distant family members and others have attended more Zoom-facilitated talks and church meetings. But this access is not available to everyone. Nor is everyone comfortable with technology-mediated interactions. Moreover, being able to meet someone over coffee or to reach out and comfort another with a gentle touch is irreplaceable.

Another truth is that though this pestilence is not specifically named in the Bible, this crisis—like many others that make the news today—have all been foretold. Have we not been warned “of wars and rumours of war” (Matt 24:6)? In the midst of all the cataclysmic news is the reassurance that nothing is out of God’s control and everything is according to His plan before Christ’s return.

Another truth to hold on to is God’s promise in Jeremiah 29:11—“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a hope and a future.” If we believe our Lord’s Word to be true, we can have hope. What I am suggesting is not that we bury our heads in the sand pretending that there is no pain or suffering as long as we do not see it. We must not lose sight of the reality that hard times are upon us but can be confident that even now, there is hope for a people with a future with God.

The focus of this issue of Methodist Message is missions. We do not have to look far to see opportunities for missions. Our mission should be to bring the message of His love to the many we know who are disconnected, to those who are feeling lonely and discouraged. Whilst observing the rules for engaging others safely, let us safely connect so that others may also connect with Him.

Benny Bong has been a family and marital therapist for more than 30 years, and is a certified work-life consultant. He was the first recipient of the AWARE Hero Award, received in 2011, and is a member of Kampong Kapor Methodist Church.