My friend Sharon mentioned the other day that it feels like she is always having to say “no” to her kids right now. Things that were normally OK to do are now forbidden, dangerous, or not even possible. We are so used to the freedom of making choices and being able to follow through with the decisions we make. Not so now in the midst of this pandemic where our choices are few and the response to so many of the options is “no!”
I moved into a new neighborhood in February and was so looking forward to getting to know my neighbors, having church friends and students over to my place, hosting gatherings… you know, practicing hospitality. But I don’t have the freedom to do that now. It is a real loss for me. How about you? What are your losses? What are people saying “no” to in your life?
How do we find contentment in these days when we have little freedom and it seems that everything is going wrong in our world? I’ve been re-reading the little book of Habakkuk. Yeah, I know, it’s not most people’s “go to” reading, but it speaks deeply to my heart as I’m grieving various losses.
What could have gone more wrong for the Israelites (again!)? They had been overrun time and again by enemy forces, the crops had failed, and livestock were either dead or had fled.
Habakkuk wrestles with God but also pays attention to the losses (Kairos) and names them. (I think he went through DNA group in the early years!) He doesn’t sugar-coat the losses, but voices his own grief and the deep grief of his people.
In chapter 3 verse 17 we read what Habakkuk had to say about life at that time: it was grim. Lots to grumble about, right? Everything was going really wrong and he names it pretty clearly:
Even though the fig trees have no blossoms,
and there are no grapes on the vines;
even though the olive crop fails,
and the fields lie empty and barren;
even though the flocks die in the fields,
and the cattle barns are empty,
But after lots of grumbling to God and naming his losses (the Bad News), Habakkuk hears the Good News and CHOOSES to embrace it by making a declaration of faith and trust in verse 18:
YET I will rejoice in the LORD!
I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!
And then in verse 19 he acknowledges WHO is in control… Who gives him strength and where his contentment should lie.
The Sovereign LORD is my strength!
He makes me as surefooted as a deer,
able to tread upon the heights.
A while ago I used these verses as a template and wrote my own version of Habakkuk 3:17-18, naming my losses and then, in faith, choosing to rejoice. Why not try that yourself or with your family? We each have our own personal version of what those losses are, but we have the same source of hope, peace, strength, and contentment!
Rachel Wilhelm, who visited The Table back in February, wrote a song from these verses. I find it very encouraging and have played it over and over again during this season of Lent as I’m learning to lament losses great and small. I share it with you here in hopes that it will help you give voice to your losses AND faith:
Praying for us all in this time of trial!
– Nancy Nethercott
We do not celebrate Easter because life is going well. We celebrate Easter to immerse ourselves in the truths of God’s world: that evil, pain and human sin are not stronger than God’s love for us; that we follow One who knew this world and showed us the way to live in it in faith in unity with God; that we have a hope that gives courage to face the present circumstances, good or bad, and walk together trusting God.Archbishop Linda Nichols