I am typically the guy who hops on the train of pithy, applicable articles during any worldwide event, looking for “7 Things We Can Learn from. . . .” I can usually write words of comfort that are “shareable” and “likeable.”
This time, this was not the case.
As we entered into the first days of the devastating catastrophe that is COVID-19 here in Canada, I began to process it as I typically do, by writing.
But after a few paragraphs I could write no longer. A call to deeper faith did not feel appropriate. It was inauthentic, even unaware.
So I stopped. My cursor flickered over a blank document in anticipation of the next sentence.
But for weeks, nothing.
And this is still where I find myself today. This blank space is not marked by a lack of faith or zero trust that God has control – far from it. Instead, I have come to recognize in my lack of inspiration that I was and still am in a place of grief. I am mourning.
I am in shock by the ever-increasing number of cases and deaths from COVID-19.
I am angry on behalf of the families who are unable to visit their loved ones in hospitals, unable to attend funerals or visit newborn babies.
And I find myself grieving a different sort of loss, too. This cannot be compared to the pain of those who have suffered the death of a loved one. But it’s a loss nonetheless – the loss of normalcy, productivity and human connection.
In short, I am grieving and I think many of you are too.
No end in sight
Some of us are in shock at the sheer magnitude of this devastation. Some of us are still working through denial about whether this is really so bad after all. Some of us are struggling with a very real anger around all of the changes that have been forced upon us. And some of us are truly suffering from spiritual and physical depression and apathy as there is no end date in sight.
All of us are at some stage in the throes of grief.
Maybe you were graduating high school or university, and the opportunity to walk across the stage to get your diploma or play your last varsity game has vanished.
Maybe you are a new parent, and you cannot share this miraculous time with your friends and family or lean on them for support.
Maybe you are a business owner and you’ve had to lay off staff, close your doors. Daily life is filled with uncertainty.
Maybe you are a parent. Your kids are now doing distance learning, and you’re the teacher. You feel stretched thin, that the time and energy you have to support your family is inadequate.
Maybe you are a grandparent or living in long-term care. The doors have been shut, dinner delivered in a plastic-encased hot-plate at your door, hands pressed up against window-panes as your children and grandchildren stay outside.
Maybe you are without work entirely. The government has set up supports, and a few friends have texted you, saying, “Enjoy it! It’s free time off!” They seem oblivious to the desperate need you have for finances and support.
These are all painful situations, and the list could go on.
For so many different reasons, we are all grieving.
We cry to you, O Lord
Have you been feeling a sense of lethargy? Have you felt dry spiritually, even distanced from God? Have you felt emotionally dry, and unlike yourself? That’s grief.
Grief is not only the result of death but of loss. We have all lost something in this pandemic, and it’s not over yet. In this place of grief, we need to give ourselves time, space and ultimately grace. We cannot expect to accept this new normal overnight, or even in one month.
In this blank space of COVID-19 lament, I believe that Scripture gives us the words I could not find. Words of grief, uncertainty, anger and downright depression. Words that are more than “keep calm and carry on.”
The majority of Scripture is God’s Word to us, according to the church father Athanasius. But the Psalms, he says, speak for us.
Psalm 88 offers us a pertinent and powerful example. We can echo the Psalmist’s cry in the midst of our difficult times:
“I am overwhelmed with troubles
and my life draws near to death…
“… You have taken from me my closest friends
and have made me repulsive to them.
I am confined and cannot escape;
my eyes are dim with grief.
“But I cry to you for help, Lord;
in the morning my prayer comes before you…”
“… All day long they surround me like a flood;
they have completely engulfed me.
You have taken from me friend and neighbor—
darkness is my closest friend.”
Maybe you feel overwhelmed. Prayers struggle from your exasperated lips. You feel surrounded by this pandemic, engulfed, as if gasping out for life and air. And maybe you too feel as if darkness is your closest friend.
You are not alone.
The Psalmist had some heavy words for God. But these words are a part of the Holy Word of God to his people. You are not the only one struggling. Come as you are before God in these moments of pain and despair. No loss is too small, no grieving too insignificant to our Heavenly Father. He doesn’t need our polished, “Sunday morning” selves before the Throne of Grace. He wants all of us. The good, the bad, the light and the dark.
He cares about you. He knows you. He loves you. And he wants us to find our angry, grief-stricken rest in his loving, sovereign, providential arms.