For most of the past few months, I have been mostly ok. Doesn’t that seem strange? The world has felt like it was crumbling most days, and I have been ok. That’s not to say I haven’t felt sad from time to time or had my heartbroken by the news. Or that everyday feels like a joyful adventure. I’ve found myself feeling square in the middle most of the time. If you asked me “How are you?” I would probably respond, “I’ve been better, I’ve been worse.” The middle. No man’s land.
But last night, I had to go to Church Street to do some brief preparation for our online Kick-Off Sunday night. (P.S. Do you have it on your calendar?! See you on Zoom at 6:00!) I walked into our worship room and it hit. The last time I was in that room on a Wednesday night was in March. MARCH. And we still have a long road to walk before we can safely join back together. I was so surprised by the ache that I felt. Because in the grand scheme of all that is happening in our lives and the world, walking into an empty room isn’t such a big deal. But it was the step that woke me up a little bit inside. That reminded me that there is more going on under the surface of my soul than I realized.
So, what is our theme for today? Make room for grief.
What are the things that feel heavy in your heart? Name them. No matter how big or small.
Are you sad about a virus that continues to spread, even though you’ve had to give up so much to it already? Are you aching about the racial injustice we are seeing nationwide? Are you fearful about being back in school? Are you disappointed because you are learning at home? Have you lost a loved one and not been able to honor their life the way you’d like? Has it been far too long since you’ve seen friends or family who live out of town? Have things that bring you joy (graduations, performances, recitals, sporting events, family traditions, etc.) been put on hold? Does your faith feel like it’s slipping through the cracks without the rhythms of worship and youth group to keep you going? Are you frightened by violence and anger? Are you sad, but you aren’t even sure why?
Name it. And hand it to our friend, Jesus.
In the Old Testament, there is a book called Lamentations. And you probably guessed this by its title, but it is a book of lament, of sorrow, of heartbreak. The author is writing it retroactively – so he is reflecting on what has already happened. And he writes a series of poems telling the horrendous story of Israel’s fall to the Babylonians and the exile that followed. The entire book is one of pain, except for three short verses, found in the middle of the third chapter. You’ve probably heard them before. Lamentations 3:22-24 reads:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”
These are the only words of hope in the whole book. But the truth there is enough, even when we’re walking in darkness. This passage has inspired one of the most beloved hymns of all time, and it is our resource for today. Great is Thy Faithfulness is a powerful song that praises God for His provision in the midst of our weakness and our grief. One of my favorite lines says, “strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow.” That single line has been a stone of remembrance to me during the past few months. When things feel hard and heavy, I’ve thought, “strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,” and it has helped to carry me through.
Below, I’ve included one of my favorite recordings of this hymn. It is sung by singer/songwriter Sandra McCracken who also wrote one of our youth group favorites, In Feast or Fallow. Her take on this well-known hymn is simple and beautiful, and accompanied me on my drive home last night, reminding me that our Hope is in Jesus. Yes and amen.
Wherever you are on the spectrum of joy and sorrow, I hope you’ll make room for your grief. Let’s name the hard things and then turn them over to the One who can carry it all. If you ever need to talk, just say the word. I’m all ears.
Grace and peace,