is “Failure to Thrive” a COVID-19 side-effect?

You will keep in perfect peace

    all who trust in you,

    all whose thoughts are fixed on you!

Isaiah 26:3

Here is my disclaimer: This post is not about undermining the science around Covid-19, nor am I opposing the well-thought-out restrictions North Carolina has in place in terms of masks, crowded venues, or social distancing. I am simply thinking out loud and trying to wrap my head around the kind of future we are moving into.

So I’m considering the biblical principle that “Humankind was/is created for community” – it’s the basis of the Genesis story. This idea is not only foundational to the identity of the human race theologically, it also has science (anthropology, sociology, psychology, medicine…) behind it.


Simply put, we need one another and we need human contact. Without it we cannot thrive. As a former exceptional education teacher who specialized in early childhood development I have always been concerned about what’s known as “failure to thrive.” I believe we need to be very deliberate to make sure failure to thrive does not become as widespread in our population as COVID-19.

– stock image

We’re all aware of the disturbing research documenting the deterioration and eventual death of children denied human contact (see this article for a helpful case study). Even for adults, solitary confinement is considered cruel and unusual punishment.

This summer NPR reported health experts’ suspicions that isolation (both from family and physical touch) has impacted nursing home mortality rates as much if not more than coronavirus.

What I’m saying here is that viral infection and serious illness is not the only tragedy we need to be concerned about. Isolation opposes human development, it destroys community, it cuts us off not only from one another it hides us from ourselves, it promotes asocial behavior, it polarizes, it abrogates a key ingredient of the commerce that sustains our economy, it untethers us – as it were – from the amniotic fluid of collective life.

Community, to a large extent, is essentially what makes us human.



Theoretically, κοινωνία (koinonia) should not depend on physical proximity; but the reality of how we are made, along with the purpose of our creation, means that we are in danger of a failure to thrive spiritually right along with our social and physical vulnerabilities.

I have waffled enough for one post, but let me leave this with those of you who stayed with me to the end: Our physical health is only one part of the equation; if we neglect our spiritual wellbeing too then we will have more problems going forward than masks and distancing and even a vaccine are equipped to address.

author Derek Maul lives, thinks, and writes in Wake Forest, NC

Regardless, let’s commit ourselves to throwing ourselves and our children into community at every possible (and responsible) opportunity. A great place to start is hooking up with virtual church (click here), and participating in every possible group and activity.

Peace, and I mean that in every way – DEREK


  1. No waffling here at all. I think you’ve made a great presentation of factual information that we all must consider. I don’t like to hear the phrase “new normal”. Normal will be when we can conduct ourselves as we did prior to this pandemic.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. So good. I have felt dry lately…not so much spiritually but mentally and emotionally because even though at times I can be reserved, I am at my core a people person. This has been extremely hard for me, and as someone who fights against anxiety on a regular basis, I have found a wave of depression trying to settle on me. The Lord knows how hard I have been fighting against this, and how somedays it takes every ounce of strength to even get out of bed. Thank you for this. I have been asking God to help me have joy when I feel weak.


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