How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me -- Psalm 13:1
Are these the questions you’ve found yourself asking lately? How long will this quarantine last? How long must I stay away from loved ones, restrain from activities I enjoy, worry about this invisible threat? What’s the next event on my calendar that I’ll have to cancel, after all my preparation and excitement? Will I get sick? Will my loved ones get sick? How long will this grief last?
And, maybe the scariest question of all, for those of us who love Jesus: “why is God allowing this to happen? Has He abandoned us?” We’re in a time of uncertainty, where few of our questions find answers. We turn on our televisions or unlock our phones, and instead of assurance, find only more reason for worry.
When you’ve turned to the Lord in prayer, or in scripture, has the Lord answered your numerous questions? I’ve been disappointed in the Lord when He hasn’t answered mine. Perhaps there is a different way to think about all of this.
NT Wright, renowned theologian, recently wrote an article entitled “Christianity Offers No Answers About the Coronavirus. It’s Not Supposed To,” saying:
“It is not part of the Christian vocation, then, to be able to explain what’s happening and why. In fact, it is part of the Christian vocation not to be able to explain—and to lament instead. As the Spirit laments within us, so we become, even in our self-isolation, small shrines where the presence and healing love of God can dwell. And out of that there can emerge new possibilities, new acts of kindness, new scientific understanding, new hope.”
Instead of directing all of our energy into questioning, and demanding answers from the Lord, we can direct our energy towards lament, expressing our pain to the Lord and allowing Him to enter into our pain with us, so that we find another kind of certainty: The Lord does not leave us.
Join me in lamenting what we’re losing and what we’ve lost. The Lord does not turn away from us in our anguish, but rather turns towards us, reveals His heart to us, and makes us more like Him. As St. Augustine said, “our heart is restless until it rests in you.” May you find rest in the unending love of Jesus.
Rachael Heinsen is a recent graduate of UCI with a degree in English. She loves hiking, reading, and all things chocolate. Rachael feels called to higher education and is excited for all Jesus has for her. (During COVID-19 Rachael is staying safe and staying home).
*Editor’s Note: Some Christians have raised questions about if NT Wright’s article goes too far – taking him to mean that God has no answers for these problems. While we are not here to defend him or his article, we have posted Rachael’s insights, because she rightfully sees that while the Bible gives us big answers for the problems of pain (sin, punishment, discipline, transformation, comfort others, God’s glory, etc.) it is not our job to always figure out the specific reasons for why it impacts each of us. Instead, we can fully affirm that God is sovereign and is working out His plan even while we respond in a lament that longs for God to make things right and even more, to be with us.
For a related sermon, watch “When Jesus Disappoints”.