This article by N.T. Wright on Christianity’s perspective of COVID-19 hit a raw nerve in my soul. In it Wright suggests that our role as Christians is not to give answers to why, how, or even what or who, is most related to COVID-19. Instead, to simply be present with one another in the virus. Not providing explanations or even compelled toward declaring hope or sighs of relief. Instead, to join our hearts in lament: a collective stillness of poised, anxious sorrow.
I relate to this article, not just because I’m prone to melancholy myself, but because of all the genuine sorrow being experienced worldwide. And, without a defined ending point, solution, or even a clear light at the end of this virus’ dark tunnel. We wait, not in rest, but in collective anxiety. We try to defer or distract from our sorrow, and sweet stories of goodness and kindness bring a brief smile to our face and a tear to our eye. But, then the sorrow returns.
Lament. It’s what the psalms are filled with, and our prayers invite. Lament. Crying out to God for relief of our suffering, our pain, our heartache, our endless days of sadness and gloom. Lament. It’s universal, not just for the least, the lost, and the lonely, but for the upwardly mobile, the winners, and the socialites. If we’re honest, it’s something you’ve seen and felt and known too.
What I’m discovering in my own soul is that the lament of our world today is uncovering the lament of my world today. Lament. Over broken relationships that make no sense in times like these. Lament. Because of my own selfishness, defensiveness, and dare I confess: sinfulness. Lament. In spite of our collective desire to be people of hope, we are known more for our competitive spirits and our uncooperative unwillingness to bend…even an inch. Lament. Sorrow for how much our selfish humanness must hurt the heart of our selfless God. Lament.
Those of us in soul work understand lament because we hear it when we meet with others in confidential spaces. We listen to stories of real people in real settings dealing with real hardship, suffering, angst, disillusionment. We aren’t surprised by what we hear. Mostly because of our common humanity, but specifically because we can actually imagine it for ourselves. If we’re willing to empathize. And lament.
How are you dealing with the out-of-control nature of the pandemic? You are hereby given permission to embrace the response of lament. It’s actually quite good for your soul. The psalms are our comfort, for they are filled with prayers of lament. Express your lament to God. He can handle it. His broad shoulders can carry your lament. Trust him and encourage others to do likewise.
“…it is part of the Christian vocation not to be able to explain—and to lament instead. As the Spirit laments within us, so we become, even in our self-isolation, small shrines where the presence and healing love of God can dwell. And out of that there can emerge new possibilities, new acts of kindness, new scientific understanding, new hope. New wisdom for our leaders? Now there’s a thought.” (N.T. Wright)
With our prayerful lament we also long for hope. Like the Lenten season and Holy Week, both filled with hard images of suffering and sorrow, we do know that Easter will burst forth with resurrection light and power. Christ reigns supreme, he is indeed on his throne, and the life he offers to all is resplendent with joy. Lament is only for this side of heaven. Eternity won’t have anything to offer lament except to be crushed by hope.
As we all suffer through this trial and tribulation, our anchor is Christ and Christ alone. So, even as we lament, let’s keep pointing one another to the cross, the empty tomb, and the gift of eternal life. And, ultimately, to God: Father Almighty, Jesus our Savior, and the Spirit we call Holy. There is no better way forward.
Your friends at Leadership Transformations have pivoted toward several online offerings. Take advantage of them over this coming month. We are here for you in whatever state your soul is found today. In lament. In humility. In anticipation. In prayer. In joy.
Your brother in Christ,