What can we learn about COVID from Lamentations? I believe we can learn a lot. If we want to. Lamentations is about how the Israelites reacted to being defeated, having their homes and cities totally destroyed, and then either being in captivity in their homeland or being exiled to the land of their conqueror. Sounds pretty bad, right? Lamentations was a look at how the people reacted to those events. Reactions like anger. Blame. Self-pity.
But then they moved on to the point of recognizing what was really happening. They also moved on to the realization that there was hope. And where that hope was going to come from. So yeah – it sounds like we can learn quite a bit from Lamentations. The thing is though, the lessons learned back then were rather short-termed. Soon forgotten. Therefore, if we do learn anything from their experiences, the challenge for us is to hopefully remember what we learned.
Lamentations – a book about feelings during a very hard time
A deep, solemn dread had overtaken the people in the aftermath of the rush of events …
How could it ever have happened?
A new sombre mood with heavy threads of depression replaced their former days of song and dance.
Every form of joy, merriment or conviviality was now gone.
Kaiser, W. C., Jr. (2004). Grief and pain in the plan of God: christian assurance and the message of Lamentations. Fearn, UK: Christian Focus Publications.
Those words above sound so much like today, don’t they? We feel depressed. There’s no joy. Because there’s this COVID virus. And it’s all because ____ won’t let us _____!
I leave it to you to fill in the blanks. Maybe we can’t have fun, because the Democrats won’t let us. Or maybe it’s we can’t have regular church services because the public health people aren’t Christians and don’t understand.
Whatever it is, so many people have those kinds of feelings right now. And they make us angry! Or depressed. Or both.
None of those feelings are new. The exile written about in Lamentations was over 2500 years ago! The excerpt above is from a book about Lamentations, which recorded the feelings of the people during the exile period. And we’re no different today.
What can we learn about COVID from Lamentations?
Like I said, we can learn a lot. If we choose to. However, here are some things we’re not going to learn. We’re not going to get into the science of COVID. And I don’t even want to touch anything to do with how to stop the spread. Or possible vaccines. Nor do I want to get into anything pitting one political party against another.
All of those things get us too riled up to really learn much of anything about how to deal with our feelings.
By the way, this will be about Christian reactions. The way everyone feels about COVID is pretty much the same, initially. But it’s the process the Israelites went through that I want to look at. They were God’s chosen people in the Old Testament. So this will be a look at life from a religious point of view. More specifically, from a Christian point of view.
If you are Christian, I believe it’s worth it to examine what the Israelites went through.
If you’re not Christian, I think it’s worthwhile for you as well. Especially if you’re thinking Christians don’t really react much differently from everyone else. The thing is, we’re all people. Christians and non-Christians alike are human beings with human emotions.
The question is more one of how do we process those emotions. Where does our hope for getting through bad times, like COVID, come from? How do we turn from the anger, depression, despair and other emotions to our source of hope? Those are the things I want to examine.
How can we learn about COVID from Lamentations?
Looking at COVID with a Lamentations point of view turned out to be a lot more involved than I expected.
Before writing something like this, I do research. It started off with just an urge to look at Lamentations. Then I realized there was a reason for that. For Christians, it’s the still small voice of the Holy Spirit. COVID and Lamentations go very much together.
As if it was confirmation that I was on track, when I was looking for more research material, I found I already owned an electronic copy of the book referenced above – Grief and pain in the plan of God: christian assurance and the message of Lamentations. With more than 2500 e-books, it’s impossible to remember all of them. Or to have read all of them. But there it was!
Then it got more involved. I like to read at least three different books at a time for my research. Get more points of view. Including ones I don’t necessarily agree with. And there’s a lot of prayer – that two-way conversation with God.
Which brings up another book I came across to do more research. This one is Hearing God: Developing a Conversational Relationship with God by Dallas Willard. Of course, this one’s important both for me as I do the research and for all of us as we go through life. In particular, to really understand Lamentations and how it relates to our current COVID situation.
And then, more books to read. Like When the Darkness Will Not Lift: Doing What We Can While We Wait for God—And Joy, by John Piper. No doubt, the list will grow as the series progresses.
The thing is, it can’t even start until I’ve at least gone through the things I feel led to examine first. So what I initially expected to be a single article is turning into a series. What I thought would be a deeper look at one chapter from Lamentations turned into at least three chapters.
And then what I thought would be three articles turned into more than three, since trying to get one chapter with all these resources into just one article would be overwhelming. For me. And for you, the reader.
What can we learn about COVID from Lamentations? Will it be good or bad?
Will what comes of this be good or bad news? I honestly believe that really depends on you. How you react to what’s written. The Book of Lamentations does have a lot of really awful stuff in it. Why? Because it records real life. And sometimes real life is very messy.
And yet, for someone who really tries to live a Christian life, the promise at the end of that life is nothing but good news. News like the promise below from Revelation.
Rev 7:13 Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?”
Rev 7:14 I answered, “Sir, you know.”
And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15 Therefore,
“they are before the throne of God
and serve him day and night in his temple;
and he who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them.
Rev 7:16 Never again will they hunger;
never again will they thirst.
The sun will not beat upon them,
nor any scorching heat.
Rev 7:17 For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd;
he will lead them to springs of living water.
And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
You can read much more about that promise to wipe away every tear from their eyes in Wipe away every tear from their eyes: the greatest miracle?
What it comes down to is whether or not we choose to accept God’s gift of salvation through His Son Jesus. Which means we are also willing to make a real effort to follow Him the best we can. Not just say some words, but really try to follow. More on that thought is at Are we supposed to Believe God, Believe in God or Follow God?.
Ultimately, for Christians this should be good news. If we really try to follow Jesus, it is good news.
For anyone who’s not Christian, it most certainly can be good news. My prayer is that what you read here will spark something in you to find out more. BTW, that spark within you is God, responding to your effort to reach out to Him. Part of the two-way conversation we looked at above.
As you read this, remember that Christians aren’t perfect. We’re people, just like everyone else. However, we should be different in some ways. For instance, having the strength, from God, to move through the phases we’ll see in Lamentations. Not just get stuck in the anger or the blame part. But instead, moving on to the part where we see the hope for the future through these events. Hope that can only be seen through that same two-way conversation with God. The one we call prayer.
Conclusion: What can we learn about COVID from Lamentations?
I can write this series. And you can read the whole thing. You might even like it. But without that two-way conversation, without prayer, it’s really not possible to understand the scope of the hope we have as Christians. We aren’t Christians just to have something to get us by, like a coping mechanism. Or to “feel good”. Not even as an escape from reality. Truth is, if those things are why we think we’re Christian, I don’t believe we really are!
So my prayer for you is that you will have those two-way conversations with God as you read this. And don’t worry if you haven’t prayed before. You don’t need fancy words. God already knows what we feel, so just tell Him! Use the words already going through your mind. I once told God – in prayer – “I’m not getting whatever You’re trying to tell me, so you’re just gonna have to hit me upside the head with a two-by-four!” I was into word-working as a hobby – that’s why the two-by-four.
The point is, telling God what you feel isn’t giving away some deep dark secret. He already knows. So just tell Him exactly how you feel. That’s what’s recorded in Lamentations. That’s what God’s chosen people did back then. And He responded.
Things won’t necessarily immediately get better. Especially with something like COVID. It’s not going to miraculously go away in two weeks. It’s going to go away when it goes away. The timing isn’t what’s important to what we’re doing here. The important thing is to get to a point where we have hope replacing hopelessness. Hope that comes from people isn’t a sure thing. We’re often disappointed. But hope that comes from God, when we follow Him, can be trusted.
As it says so often in the Old Testament,
They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me with all their heart.
These days, it’s a bit different in wording, but the same thing.
Jn 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.”
Remember where I said what we get out of this series is dependent on ourselves? That same thought is expressed in the passage above. Most people know of John 3:16. Not so many probably know John 3:18. But right there is our choice. Yes, our choice. Believe (follow) or not. Have hope or not.
So that’s what’s planned. Please – read along and find out out how it goes. The only thing I know for sure at this point is that Lamentations does have a good ending for the people then. And if we choose to, it will have a good ending for us today!
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