These past three and a half months of physical distancing have been filled with many emotions that I find difficult to process. Uncertainty, aimlessness, disappointment, but maybe most evidently: loss. Having to grieve the loss of giving up my summer plans that I’d been looking forward to: going to Cuba for a study abroad program, working a new summer job at a camp up in Haliburton, and finding time in between to see friends—perhaps you can relate to that. For some, it’s a loss of plans, it’s a loss of jobs, or it’s a loss of normalcy. For others, it’s the heavy loss of loved ones, whether it be to the virus or other unrelated circumstances. My heart grieves for those experiencing the loss of someone in such a bleak and desolate time.
With loss can come feelings of hopelessness. Suddenly, the summer plans that I was confident in were either put on hold until further notice or cancelled altogether. As the weeks have gone by, the discouragement and disappointment I’ve felt have gradually sunk in, as determining new plans for the future continues to be a wildcard. And now here we are at the start of summer, with losses behind us and before us.
As I’ve processed my own feelings, I’ve allowed myself to feel the pain of my losses and to lament freely to God. As I’ve done this, I’ve realized that my heart is weary. Though there is much that I’m grateful for, this hasn’t outweighed the frustration and confusion that I’ve felt. In the midst of quarantine, I’ve had to reevaluate where I place my identity, the promises of God, and whether or not I believe he is who he says he is.
Prior to this pandemic, I felt so confident in what I would be doing for the next several months; when we went into lockdown, I was deeply humbled. I recognize now how I just assumed that life would go more or less according to what my plans were, and in my pride, I had made myself the master of my own universe.
I know that God is all-loving and our Rock in times of hardship, yet there are so many other things that I choose to seek out rather than God. Whether it be technology, online shopping, food, or working out, there are still many other things I look to for comfort in my feelings of loss and hopelessness. While these things aren’t inherently bad, I have had to stop connecting whether or not I have these good things to who I am. At the end of the day, the technology I use, the clothes I wear, the food I eat, and the summer memories I make will all one day either change, or fade away. They aren’t constant, nor are they meant to be—but Jesus is (Hebrews 13:8).
Yes, Jesus is the only thing that is certain, in a life that is uncertain. My identity or sense of purpose has to be placed in him, and not in temporary things. Furthermore, because God is everlasting, it means that he keeps his promises to humanity, something that I’ve wrestled with over the past few weeks.
With all of the free time I have, I’ve frequently been pondering how God has kept his promises of deliverance to humanity. He freed the Israelites when they were in the midst of their oppression, as slaves in Egypt (Exodus 6:2-8). He restored them again when they were captured by Babylon—even when it seemed they would never return to their homeland (2 Chronicles 36:22-23). Later, he sent Jesus, their long-awaited Messiah, to die for the sins of humanity, fulfilling his promise of redeeming the human race (Colossians 1:13-14). I know that this summer has been hard for many of us, but God is not repulsed by our feelings. Even in our distress or discouragement, he knows our hearts and the array of emotions and feelings that we’re experiencing during this time of loss. And he cares because he is a compassionate God.
When I try to comprehend the why and how of everything that’s happened, I can only see things from my finite perspective. I can’t explain why this is happening or why God has allowed it to happen. I don’t know for certain how things are going to look in the future. Yet, no matter how often I express frustration, bitterness, and heartache towards God, he continually shows me grace. In contrast to human leaders, God always patiently and graciously offers his love and mercy to us. His heart also breaks at the hardships that we are experiencing, and he also grieves with those who are grieving during this difficult time (Isaiah 63:9). I don’t have a complete understanding of why everything has unfolded the way that it has, but it’s okay, because it’s not a responsibility I need to bear. Even in the midst of our loss and hopelessness, God’s response is of love and the assurance of his presence in the turmoil. As a follower of Christ, do I believe God is who he says he is? It is in our losses that we recognize our greatest need for hope: a hope that can only be found in knowing that the creator of the universe loves us, fulfills the promises that he makes and is faithful through it all.
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”– Isaiah 41:10