My church at Charlton City UMC began worshiping outdoors in June without masks or physical distancing but continued to require masks if we were forced indoors. Our thinking was that it would be a few Sundays at most during the summer, so no big deal, and we’d have the mask policy in place just in case the fall brought worsening news. Well, that “just in case” is already rearing its ugly head. At the same time, because of the worsening news surrounding Covid-19, we are faced with the discouraging question: how long? How long will this go on?
All of us, to varying degrees, are frustrated, disappointed, and swiftly losing hope that this pandemic would only affect us for a year. Some of us, if not most of us, are also growing disillusioned about whether our institutions, our churches and governments, actually care about us or if they’re only concerned with scoring political points. How long? How long must we be told what to do with conflicting reports about what the best course forward is?
Of course, if I knew the answers to those questions, then I’d probably play the lottery. What I can help us with, though, is our response to such deep disappointment and disillusionment. There are plenty of examples of God’s people living in grief, disappointment, and hopelessness.
Psalm 13 asks, “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?” The Book of Lamentations is five chapters of wondering whether God will abandon Israel. Job comes to mind, too. Having lost everything, he questions God, doubts traditional theologies and understandings of God and life, and rages against his ‘friends’ who don’t seem to care about him.
Yet each of those examples, Job especially, never take their eye off of God, the source of hope, the origin of all that is and all that is good. Our biblical ancestors lived in disappointment and disillusionment but never let themselves be ruled by anything other than a hope that God will act somehow, some way, some time. We cannot ignore how we are feeling, we cannot hide what we are thinking, but we should not be ruled by hopelessness, frustration, or anger.
For your sake, for your mental and physical and spiritual health, I hope that you will acknowledge your frustrations, disappointments, and disillusionment, but not be stuck there. This pandemic has been and, apparently, will continue to be with us for a long time. So we must find reason to hope. Whether you believe in God or not, it is imperative that we follow the biblical example so that we do not permanently fall prey to negativity. Look for blessings anywhere you can find them. Rage against God if you have to. But somehow, some way, return to hope. Do not let divisions or confusions or uncertainty take your eye off of God, the creator of all that is good.