There is so much to lament in our world today – a global pandemic, economic downturn, social/political/racial tensions. We face our own humanity and mortality on a daily basis. We know of people with serious health issues and we fear for them this deadly spreading virus. We know people who have lost jobs. We know those who suffer from isolation, anxiety, and depression.
We feel the malaise in our own souls as well. The unknown is becoming greater than the known. We cannot predict our schedules, our safety, our health. Trips have been cancelled indefinitely. Jobs are virtual and virtual feels distant. School for our children is not something we can count on. The experts disagree on so many things, and we don’t know what we don’t know.
There was a time when all the people of Israel felt the same malaise. It was called The Exile. During the Babylonian exile, Jeremiah wrote poems of lament, now preserved in the book of Lamentations. They never expected to wake up one day and be forced to live in a far-away place where all the customs and protocols were unfamiliar. “How deserted lies the city, once so full of people!” – (Lamentations 1:1) The exiles felt distant from God, from other believers, from the now destroyed temple. They could not sing. They wept.
It’s like that for us these days. We are weeping, too. We long for the community of neighbors, co-workers, friends, and church, but we are told to keep our distance, wear a mask, and avoid large gatherings. All things were going well, at least many of them were going well, and then suddenly everything collapsed. When this coronavirus pandemic came upon us, it was like waking from a good dream to find reality had become a nightmare. “Our hearts are sick and weary, and our eyes grow dim with tears.” (Lamentations 5:17) We cry out with Jeremiah, “Restore us O Lord and bring us back to you again. Give us back the joys we once had.” (Lamentation 5:21)
“Pour out your hearts like water to the Lord.” And it is not only our concerns we bring to God, but also those of the poor and oppressed who are in greater need than ever before. “Lift up your hands to Him in prayer, pleading for the children…” (Lamentations 2:19)
World Vision has shown its agility in adjusting work around the world to address the most pressing needs of people in this coronavirus environment. National leaders from Africa applaud the manner in which World Vision has accelerated and innovated its work in the most difficult areas. Clean water and handwashing are more important than ever, so World Vision educates with greater urgency the value of preventing infections by washing. Child protection demands more effort as child labor and human trafficking are increasing in the wake of the economic ills we face. Work in economic empowerment and microloans will help families cope and restore livelihoods. And because World Vision is established in so many countries already, with incredibly dedicated staff, the work is adapting to new realities quickly. In the USA, World Vision is partnering with churches to provide vulnerable families with food and other essentials in 35 cities across the country. The mission to serve the world’s poor has not been shut down.
So we remember that even after the exile, the people came back to Jerusalem. The temple was rebuilt and God was still with them. The people learned that God’s presence can even be found in isolation and exile. They learned that God collects our tears and laments with us. “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.” (Psalm 56:8)
Let us learn what God wants to teach us in these days of uncertainty. Let us listen to Jeremiah’s great reminder: “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.” (Lamentations 3: 21-24)
Prayer: Thank you Lord for your great love and compassion. Have mercy on our world, give us peace from our anxieties. Heal the brokenhearted and cool the fevers of the sick. Give us courage to help others even when we ourselves feel the pain. Collect our tears and water the earth, bring forth a great harvest even in this trying period. Our hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and your righteousness. Great is your faithfulness. Amen.