This Past Sunday I attended yet another virtual funeral. It is my third in the last few months in which someone close to me has succumbed to the COVID-19 pandemic.
I’ve felt the sting of this virus 5 times on a personal level. My best friend, a Church planter in South Africa and his wife fought the virus. In one poignant moment, I received a voice mail from him as he quite literally sounded like he was fighting to breathe and could simply suffocate at any moment. That is a sound I won’t soon forget.
Then, there was a zoom call with Pastors from across Canada, the US, and Europe. I listened to a Brother from Italy talk of the devastation that COVID-19 has caused in his country and ministry. Thousands have died—parking garages turned into make-shift gathering places for caskets. It was a vivid moment when he told us of an entire parking garage filled with caskets and not cars.
I’ve also attended the funeral of a childhood friend who was murdered and sat next to a 91-year-old saint battling cancer who longed for me to hug her.
I’ve tried to comfort a friend who is a paramedic; she is tired, burned out, and frustrated with the death all around her and the constant fighting that she sees and hears about concerning whether or not Covid is real. Trust me it is all too real for her and the hundreds of others like her who arrive on the front line of countless emergency calls.
And yes, I am a Pastor, trying to navigate the tensions of this time in the life of our Church.
In this moment, I want to express my own grief and then explain how the book of Lamentations has been such a huge help, comfort, and challenge to me.
But this has also led me to see and learn a few other things too. I’ve noticed just how inclusive the Bible writers are in their expression of pain, confession, lament, and crying out for help from God. I’ve seen in Daniel, Jeremiah, and Paul how they didn’t compartmentalize their sorrow or their joy.
These past 14 months have taught me so much more about Psalm 23 and John 11:35 and the emotion of Jesus as He wept before a sealed tomb of Lazarus.
I am learning that in order to fully appreciate the gospel and the powerful presence of Jesus, we cannot seek to care for one set of emotions to the belittling of another set.
Paul told the Romans to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice. But those are only the bookends of all our emotions.
In between weeping and rejoicing is fear, frustration worry, anxiety, happiness, anger, confusion, doubt and wonder. I am learning that in order to fully appreciate the gospel and the powerful presence of Jesus, we cannot seek to care for one set of emotions to the belittling of another set.
Jesus was a friend of sinner’s while being accused of being demon-possessed, a drunkard, and a glutton. However, children were brought to Him, women felt safe and valued before Him, men were allowed to be weak and ask questions of Him; all the while, demons bowed before Him, and Satan would flee from Him.
Yes! I am weary, grieving, and saddened. I wish I had all the answers. I wish our government got it right every time. I wish the Church, mine and others, kept the main thing the main thing, spoke kindly and gently to each other, and supported each other.
Oh, I long for Ephesians 4 to be more than verses we know but a rally cry of our hearts. But alas, the presence of sin is still here, and I am still wrestling with it. So, back to Lamentations.
Five chapters of Jeremiah show him crying out in pain, with questions, with hurt and longing. He sees the judgment of God, the sin of himself and his nation, the evil of the world and the hateful agenda of Satan. And it’s almost more than he can bear. But right in the middle of his grief, in chapter 3 Jeremiah cries out to the reality that he clings to as he fights for joy in the midst of chaos:
The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” (Lam 3:22–24)
Churches of Canada, Pastors, Brothers and Sisters, let us not deny nor buckle under the weight of sorrow, grief and frustration we are feeling right now.
Let us cry out to God, with our sorrow, grief, and frustration; let us walk with those who are also struggling with all this; let us remember it’s the gospel that will change a life and nothing else, and let us pray through Lamentations all the while resting in the promised hope and reality that Revelation 21 is coming.
Indeed! Even so, Lord Jesus, come quickly, but as we wait, revive us, comfort us, stir us and use us to show this world, our love for You as we love each other and the power of Your Gospel as we display transformed lives! Amen and Amen.