08/07/20 article: -
As July rolls around, Covid-19 and all it brings remains stuck. Lockdown is easing: some children are back at school; certain travel, work and hospitality has resumed; the R number remains less than one in most regions. And yet, the anticipated freedom of 4th July, ‘Independence Day’, came and went with little change. Churches were allowed to meet for worship, however the reality is far removed from the exhortations to sing together, share communion and greet one another with a holy kiss.
The longevity of the Covid crisis is wearing; many are simply exhausted, the hope of getting ‘back to normal’ growing dim. For many, ongoing lockdown is having a significant impact on mental health. As hope fades, despair engulfs. The truth is, we don’t know what ‘getting back to normal’ will look like.
What is a biblical response to past destruction and an uncertain ‘new normal’? We, like Jeremiah, should lament: this draws us along a hope-filled trajectory in the midst of ongoing struggles.
In the book of Lamentations, Jeremiah mourns the destruction of Jerusalem. As we reflect recent months, we mourn those lost. We mourn for those who grieve, unable to say goodbye and receive comfort from others. We mourn for the oppressed and abused, who are vulnerable and trapped. We mourn the breakdown of families and marriages. We mourn for those struggling financially. We mourn for those who have lost livelihoods. We mourn for those whose loneliness has been intensified by lockdown. We mourn for shattered dreams. We mourn the destruction of life as we have known it. Perhaps most of all, we mourn for those who have been offered the saving grace of Jesus in lockdown but have still turned away.
The first two chapters of Lamentations are written as acrostics, each verse starting with a different letter of the Hebrew alphabet. In chapter 3, the style intensifies to a triple acrostic. The underlying structure illustrates the completeness of Jeremiah’s grief. But in the middle of chapter 3, something changes. Light shines into the darkness. We read:
‘I have been deprived of peace; I have forgotten what prosperity is. So I say, “My splendour is gone and all that I had hoped from the LORD.” I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I will remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD’ (Lamentations 3:17-25)
Jeremiah is still struggling; his situation remains bleak. But he calls to mind God’s love, compassion and faithfulness: this brings hope in the midst of present struggles and the uncertainty that lies ahead. Like Jeremiah, we too can have hope. We rightly mourn the past and wonder what lies ahead, but as we dwell on the Lord’s love, compassion and faithfulness, our mourning and uncertainty becomes infused with Christ and the hope He brings. Our hope isn’t centred around things ‘getting back to normal’ - although that would be nice! Our hope is centred on Jesus and the certainty and security that is ours through His cross.
Our worldly future looks uncertain but our eternal future is glorious because He is faithful. He is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and end. His compassion remains when life falls apart. Resting in the comfort of His great love we are not consumed by life’s pain. One day, ‘“[God] will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death” or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’ (Revelation 21: 3-4). Until that day, let us lament with grace-filled hope as we walk the Christ-centred path to glory.
PSYCHOLOGIST AND COUNDELLOR
AT THE CORNERSTONE,