Learning to Believe that Jesus is Our Only Hope
For a number of us, these last couple of months have been really rough. Our bad haircut (or lack of haircut), all-day pyjama bodies, and for some, poor eating habits, are only an outward expression of what we’re feeling inside. We’ve all been forced into change these last couple of months. Having been a youth pastor for almost 18 years, I know a little about change. Leading people to change habits or ways of doing things isn’t easy. No one likes to change. Even more, people hate when change is thrust upon then.
It’s not really even change though as Ronald Heifitz says “What people resist is not change per se, but loss.” That was one of those quotes that I read in another book, Adoptive Ministry by Chap Clark, quoting a guy, much smarter than me, whose book I haven’t read.
So, as I travel through this COVID-19 time, and so do you, what we are mourning is not so much the change but the loss in that change. I know, you already knew that right? Joel, we didn’t need a bunch of smart guys, through you, to tell us that we are mourning loss. But let me ask the question:
What have you lost? What loss are your suffering from?
When we think of those losses, one of my bad habits, maybe yours too, is to immediately say “hey, that loss isn’t so bad… especially when I compare it to… [fill in the blank].” We can look eastward and compare our losses to the losses of those who are not only going through this pandemic time but on top of it have had some crazy psycho mass murder rob them of family and friends, whose funerals they can’t even attend on mass because of the restrictions.
Don’t do that.
There’s always someone who has it better or worse than you. It’s not about comparison. And that comparison will only soothe your own losses momentarily. On top of that, suppressing your losses you only make it worse on your own mental health. So don’t compare your losses to someone else and weirdly try and feel better about yourself.
So what should we do with our losses?
Well, what have you lost? You’ve lost close face to face times with friends and extended family perhaps? Some have lost jobs. Maybe like me, you’ve had a temporary requested job change that isn’t ideal for you and you don’t know how temporary that will be. Most of us have lost a sense of control over our own futures.
I’ve been trying to read through the Bible in a year. It will probably be around a year and a month or two for me. I’m in Proverbs right now, but I spent most of this pandemic in the Psalms. The Psalms that seemed to speak louder to me through this time are the Psalms of lament. I wonder why? These Psalmists cry out to God about their losses. One verse made me laugh and kind of cry at the same time when I read it in this COVID-19 time. It says:
We are given no signs from God; no prophets are left,
and none of us knows how long this will be.
Psalm 74:9 (NIV)
You can see, I’m sure, why I responded to this verse in laughter and tears. It’s so similar to how many of us are feeling. This lamenter is not only lamenting the loss as they go through suffering, but is saying, “I don’t even know when this will all be over and go back to normal.” We don’t even know what normal will be when things supposedly get better.
Almost one-third of the 150 Psalms of the Bible are Psalms of lament. 42 of them to be exact. Thanks google. What you find as you read them, is in almost all of them, they have this turn, this move towards hope. They lament the loss and then they have a turn verse like this one:
But as for me, afflicted and in pain— may your salvation, God, protect me.
Psalm 69:29 (NIV)
These losses suck.
Life sucks right now.
What I’ve been learning to do is this… and because I’m a pastor, I’ll give you numbered points:
Acknowledge and process what the losses I’m experiencing are
Refusing to compare my losses to others to soothe myself
Refusing to ignore my losses by turning on Netflix endlessly playing Settler’s of Catan on my iPhone (I get it, my thing, maybe not yours, fill in the blank for you)
Bringing my losses to God
Inviting him to work and bring hope
Our hope has to be Jesus. It can’t be in our own abilities to weather the pandemic. It can’t be in our own ability to come up with 5 different amazing strategies for our future. It can’t be in our wealth, our charisma, or our skills. It has to be in Jesus. I encourage you, go to the One who wants to bring you rest from your anxieties and worries. Go to the One who loves you. Offer all of your losses to Him. Invite Him to be your hope. It’s my prayer that He would meet us all there and give us the way forward.