by Sara Ghormley
Whew, what a year! It’s near the 1-year mark of the Covid-19 shut-downs that started last March, and none of us could have predicted the events of 2020. I don’t know about you, but it’s been a tough year for me! There have been some good things that have come about due to this season and I hope that you have been able to experience and rejoice in blessings too. I always treasure having my children home again for a while and our family dinners together. Those were special times that we wouldn’t have had otherwise.
But there have been many downs as well. From the loss of loved ones and the inability to be with people I love, to missed events, opportunities—even simple pleasures such as lunch with friends—in many ways, this has been a season of grieving.
As the months have dragged on and the losses accumulated, I also wrestled with my old enemies of anxiety, fear, depression, anger, and shame, in ways that I haven’t for years. Relationships have gotten complicated in unfamiliar ways. While some relationships have benefited from time together, others have suffered because we weren’t able to get together, or in some cases, are strained because of too much time together.
Can you relate, my friend?
Maybe you have lost a loved one or been separated from them. Perhaps you are discouraged by the state of our world, national politics, or strife that seems everywhere. Maybe you are worried about your finances or if you are able to keep a roof over your head. Maybe you have been trying to work, homeschool, and take care of the toddler trapped at home for months on end. Maybe the long season of isolation has been eating at your soul. Maybe all of it together.
Given the mess out there (and inside our spirits), we are all asking to some degree, “What is God doing right now? Has He forgotten me? Does He know my suffering? Does He hear my prayers for mercy or my pleas to stop the insanity in the world?”
In the book of Lamentations, Jeremiah asked similar questions. Jeremiah was the prophet that God sent to warn Israel of the coming destruction and prophesy of their upcoming captivity in Babylon. He was greatly persecuted for being a faithful voice. Jeremiah mourned over the nation of Israel and the suffering he witnessed, crying out his feelings of being abandoned by God. In Lamentations 3:1-20, Jeremiah rehearsed a shocking list of utter devastation, darkness, and despair. He says in vs. 17, “My soul has been excluded from peace; I have forgotten happiness.”
Some of us may think that’s a little extreme. But many of us can deeply relate. Others may be surprised this is even in the Bible. Are we allowed to even think such things, much less say them? We’re not supposed to feel this way, right? But many of the Psalms, and the whole book of Job, have a similar theme of brutal honesty about feelings of oppression, abandonment, or suffering. These passages encourage us to pour out our hurts, griefs and struggles honestly before God.
But we can’t stop there.
As you keep reading, Jeremiah demonstrates a change in the direction of his thoughts to refocus on what he knows about God. Lamentations 3:21-25 says:
“I recall this to my mind; therefore I wait.
The Lord’s acts of mercy indeed do not end, for His compassions do not fail.
They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I wait for Him.”
The Lord is good to those who await Him, to the person who seeks Him.”
Jeremiah reminded himself about who God is. In the midst of unimaginable suffering that most of us will never even come close to, Jeremiah can tear his eyes away from the despair around him, and look up. He “recalls” this to his mind: God is compassionate, faithful, and good. Jeremiah learned in the past that even when all seemed lost, God was still there, would still keep His promises, and would always be merciful.
My precious fellow traveler, in this season of suffering, this is for us to learn as well. We must learn to be “transformed by the renewing of (our) minds.” (Rom 12:2)
What can we do with all these feelings of anxiety, depression, despair, loss, and grief? Pour them all out to the God who sees you and knows you intimately. Run to Him with every feeling you have and pour your heart out freely. Be assured that you will be accepted and loved. (Ephesians 1) Remember and rehearse to yourself all the ways that He is good to you. And kind. And merciful. And faithful. And He is worth waiting for. Bring these verses—and the many, many more that you see all through the Bible—to your mind often, to hear and know that the God of the universe deeply loves you, and He will not forsake you or leave you, no matter how dark or desperate the situation.
I hope you will join us for our upcoming REAL Encouragement gathering, March 13, Saturday from 10am-12noon. (At Eastern Hills Baptist Church on Morris NE). Together we will explore how to do this--how to renew your mind. It is our goal that you would be refreshed by worship, encouraged by fellowship, upheld in prayer, and that you will find new mercy and strength to endure this season, knowing that you are deeply loved. I hope to see you on March 13, in person or online!