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2020 has been an interesting year so far. I’ve not heard a single person say, “Oh, I saw this coming!” or “I knew this was going to happen!” – and I certainly couldn’t have predicted the global pandemic that was coming our way as I entered into 2020.

I rang in the New Year in Germany with my family – the first time we’d all been together in years. I travelled freely, sat on crowded trains and planes, and pushed through crowds of wall-to-wall people as I ventured to some of the best-known Christmas markets in Berlin. As a person who loves being with family, traveling the world, and experiencing other cultures, I was in paradise. I had no fear of contracting COVID-19 at that point, even though I knew it was out there and I was considered “high-risk.” At that time, I saw the novel coronavirus as a distant threat – a threat far from my comfort zone and locked within another country’s borders.

But here we are, 5 months into this year, and all of our realities look vastly different.

As I write, a diptych of images flashes through my mind … On one side I’m carefree, roaming a crowded market … On the other, I cautiously enter the grocery store confronted by fear, afraid of touching items that could have been contaminated. I’m always wondering if my hand sanitizer will last 1 more day in my car.  Every time I pass another person, I wonder where they’ve been and if they’re really healthy – and am I 2 metres away?

How have we come this far in 5 short months?

A Season of Lament

 These things I remember
    as I pour out my soul:
how I used to go to the house of God
    under the protection of the Mighty One
with shouts of joy and praise
    among the festive throng.

Why, my soul, are you downcast?
    Why so disturbed within me?

Maybe these words from Psalm 42 sound a lot like your internal dialogue these days … your lament, your cry into the unknown. Lament is something we all face in different seasons. Sometimes it crashes over us in a tidal wave and some days it’s only a drizzle. This week, I’m feeling it as more of a tidal wave.

“Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me?”

I’m downcast because I had the difficult job of cancelling the last short-term mission trip scheduled for 2020. I shared the news with 15 high school students who were excited to go and learn about other cultures, God’s love for all nations, and how they can join in God’s mission. They were anticipating their time to share love with new immigrants and refugees in the Twin Cities.

But those plans have vanished.

Over the past month these students had been praying for God to stop this COVID-19 virus so that the team could travel. But God did not answer those prayers.

Personally, my soul is disturbed because I’m finally facing the reality that with border closures continuing, I won’t be able to see family for the foreseeable future. All of my family lives outside of Canada. I’m confronted with the realization that I’m going to miss my grandpa’s 80th birthday and family reunion. I’ve been looking forward to this for almost a year – but in a matter of seconds the tidal wave of loss swept it away.

My parents and in-laws have travel plans into Canada from the USA – will that be gone, too?

My soul is disturbed and downcast.

Thoughts flood my mind wondering how big my niece and nephew will be before I get to hug them again.

When It’s Out of Our Hands

What‘s rattling through your brain on sleepless nights? “My tears have been my food day and night …

Isolation may be overwhelming you, work may be uncertain and different, and stress may be consuming you. Can we handle all of this rapid change and stress?

The answer is no. We cannot handle this on our own and in times like this we face our humanity. We realize we aren’t in control.

But the good news is we don’t have to handle this on our own or be in control to be content. I know that sounds so counter-cultural – because we’ve always been told we can do anything we put our minds to, decide our own fate, follow our own paths, etc. But what happens when we realize those were all great sentiments that were shared with us as kids but they don’t seem to hold true anymore?

What happens when the world didn’t prepare us for this loss or discouragement?

What if we’re not meant to handle this life on our own?

What if the path we’re called to follow isn’t easy, and our fate doesn’t lie in our own hands?

What if instead of striving in our own strength we’re actually being asked to come as we are … come in our brokenness and weakness in order to find strength?

We’re not meant to give up.

In our brokenness and weakness, we’re invited to cling to the hope that is found in Jesus Christ.

Jesus said, “I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have troubles but take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

Jesus wants us to find the peace that only he can give, because he has overcome the world and its troubles.

When you find yourself lamenting, are you hoping for something to satisfy your soul? The invitation from Jesus is for everyone … every age, every nation, and every gender. Whoever we are, wherever we find ourselves, Jesus invites us to take heart in these troubled times.

As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, my God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God?
My tears have been my food
day and night,
while people say to me all day long,
“Where is your God?”
These things I remember
as I pour out my soul:
how I used to go to the house of God
under the protection of the Mighty One
with shouts of joy and praise
among the festive throng.

Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Saviour and my God.
(Psalm 42:1-5) 

Want to know more about following Jesus Christ and finding this hope he has to offer? Learn more here or watch livestreamed or previously-recorded weekend services from our teaching series, Sacred Sorrow: honest conversations with God Online Campus.

Pastor Briana Southerland leads the Share team at FAC Calgary, forwarding global and community outreach initiatives designed to make a positive difference and share the hope and message of Jesus Christ.