March 25, 2020
I remember my affliction and my wandering,
the bitterness and the gall.
I well remember them,
and my soul is downcast within me.
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.
For most of us, we will never forget where we were during the terrorist attacks of 9/11. It’s likely that the current pandemic will hold a similar place in our memories. Certain events are too momentous, traumatic, shocking or some combination of those things to ever be forgotten. In this section of Lamentations, we see that the destruction of Jerusalem holds a similar place in the author’s memory. I remember my affliction and my wandering . . . I well remember them and my soul is downcast within me. But the verses don’t end there, do they? In the very next breath, we read “therefore I have hope . . .” It appears to be the exact opposite of the first emotion. In the midst of your suffering and uncertainty, do you still find hope? As Sung preached on Sunday – we can find these two opposites living side by side in our hearts. The presence of one does not mean the absence of the other.
When our souls feel downcast, where do we find hope? For the author of Lamentations, hope is found in remembering the Lord’s great love. But the author also speaks of calling that memory to mind. There’s an element of work or practice that is required to remember his unfailing compassion. This seems unfair. If trauma and difficulty so easily take up permanent residence in our memories, why must we work so hard to remember the good things? In light of the current crisis, one thing to consider is how regularly we allow the negative messages to be reinforced. If you turn on the news, browse the web, or chat with a neighbor, the message of danger is immediately reinforced. If we ever desire to feel the light of hope, it’s easy to see how much work is required. Hope doesn’t sell ad spots as quickly as fear. So the news is negative. Empathy requires that we see the suffering and sadness in those around us. So we can’t just brush off the struggle and anxiety of our neighbors.
My challenge to you today is to look for hope in two places. The first is in a quiet remembering prayer. If we are not regularly praying to see signs of hope, we quickly lose the ability to see even the clearest signs. The second place to find hope is in the community of Christ followers. If you are not regularly connecting (digitally – please) with your community of faith, you are left trying to stem the tidal wave of bad news all alone. Get connected with others and share your memories of God’s goodness. At Grace Church we have many, many stories to share from the past two weeks alone. People buying groceries, dropping off diapers, writing encouraging cards, people returning to faith . . . the list goes on and on. But we won’t hear those stories if we aren’t making the effort to connect. So if you relate to the first half of these verses, but not the second, it might be time to begin the slow and difficult work of rediscovering where hope lives in your heart. Do it alone and do it in community, but today, try to find even the faintest sliver of promise in your day. Build off of that.