We can lament and we can continue to hope.
Christmas and Easter are two of the most celebrated occasions in Christian tradition. But how do you celebrate together with fellow Christians when social distancing is in place? How do you celebrate when the whole world is lamenting cancellations and delays, sickness and death, slowdowns and bankruptcies? Is there still cause for celebration? Is there still hope left for a meaningful Easter?
There are two things that we know to be true. The first: Jesus Christ died on the cross and rose on the third day, victorious over sin and death (1 Corinthians 15:54–58). He holds everything together (Colossians 1:17).
And the second: As of this week, the number of COVID-19 cases has reached more than a million all over the world, the enhanced community quarantine in majority of the nation has been extended until the end of the month, and our president declared that we only have two months worth of aid left.
How are we supposed to respond, when the facts we see seem so contradictory to the truth that we know? Is it possible to be desperately sad about the condition of our world and yet cling on to the hope that Jesus Christ brings?
Maybe the reason we find it so hard to experience both at the same time is because many of us grew up in families where our parents either gloss over the pain or coddle us in our sorrow. We either hear them say, “Maliit lang na bagay ‘yan, wag mo masyado iyakan,” or they come to our rescue with candy everytime we cry over a tiny scratch. So we carry that into our adulthood, and as Christians, we either try to brush off the pain and say, “God is in control, don’t cry over it,” or we expect God to come to our rescue and take away the pain instantly.
With the former, we come off as callous and unrealistic to other people. With the latter, we easily become disappointed with God for not dealing with the crisis immediately, and we begin to doubt Him. But is it possible that we can experience both the pain of the physical reality and the peace of Christ’s sovereignty? What does the Word of God say?
When we reflect on the lives of the characters in the Bible, the authors don’t gloss over the sin of the characters and the painful consequences of their sin. Neither do they ignore the injustices done by others against those characters. The Bible does not mask pain or ugliness, and we can see these in the lament of the different authors. Neither does it skimp on the hope and peace found in having faith in God.
Many times, both the lament and the hope are present. In fact, Lamentations is an entire book in the Bible illustrating the depth of the Prophet Jeremiah’s despair. He does nothing throughout the book but lament and complain about the state of the nation of Israel. And yet, smack in the middle of the book, he continues to lament:
I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. – Lamentations 3:19,20 (NIV)
and yet, he also speaks of hope:
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. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. – Lamentations 3:21–23 (NIV)
And hope did not fail him. Hundreds of years after he wrote the book, the hope of salvation (Lamentations 3:24–26) came in the flesh, through Jesus Christ, who lived to proclaim the kingdom of God through a life fully obedient and submitted to God. He died so that through His sacrifice, God’s wrath for our sins will be satisfied. He rose from the dead to trample on sin and death, so that our victory over them will be certain. This is the hope that cannot be taken away—a hope that cannot be found in anything or anyone else.
The coming of Jesus Christ ushered in the kingdom of God so that through those who devote their lives to follow Him, the gospel is demonstrated and preached to the ends of the earth and hope will spread as more and more people become reconciled to God.
Throughout the Bible, here is what we can glean:
1. We can and should lament.
It is perfectly fine to feel the pain of grief and loss. Be heartbroken over poverty and injustice. Be remorseful of personal sin. To miss out on lamenting is to dismiss the world’s need for salvation. In our moment of despair, we cannot deny our own limitations. It reminds us of the truth that the only solution to the world’s brokenness cannot be found in any human institution but in God alone. It points us to the truth that God is the sole hope of salvation.
2. But more importantly, we should spread hope.
As we are reminded of the reason for the hope that we have, God’s desire is for everyone to come to repentance and be reconciled to Him. We were given hope so that we can be ministers of reconciliation in this dying world (2 Corinthians 5:18). Let’s keep spreading the good news that He has overcome sin and death and that someday, He will make all pain and suffering come to an end (Revelation 21:4).
As we lament over the brokenness of our world today, let’s also remember the hope that Easter brings—an unfailing hope we can always celebrate and share, even in this season.
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