Lamenting and Hope
Here we are, nearly at the end of the first quarter of 2021, and it still feels a lot like 2020. We continue to fight the coronavirus pandemic with masks and sanitizer, keeping our distance from one another, waiting for a vaccine that may or may not solve the issue. We’re being told by government politicians and the news media that things will never return to normal. Don’t have any get-togethers with friends and family – no holiday gatherings, no super bowl parties, and spring break – forgettaboutit!
Many in our communities are without jobs or have had to close down their business. The elderly in our families have had to isolate from the rest of us when they need us most. Anxiety and depression are running at an all-time high especially among young people who need the social interaction of friends and mentors. Even churches are having a hard time maintaining community when they can’t gather for worship services and to serve in their communities.
What are we to do? As a person of faith, my answer is to lament and hope.
Lament is not a word we hear much these days, but I think we see it expressed quite often. It means to passionately express grief or sorrow. The problem is, we tend to lament online, in social media, building a group of people with a common perspective while also offending others who see things differently. Who really wins from that? The research tells us that no one does. We just get more anxiety and depression fueled by bad thinking and people who just want to keep you on their websites, scrolling endlessly into a stupor.
There is a better way to lament, that leads to hope, which in turn leads to a better future.
Three steps for lamenting:
- Acknowledge the grim reality and call it what it is. The prophet Jeremiah said, “I am the man who has seen affliction…I have been deprived of peace, I have forgotten what prosperity is…my soul is downcast within me.” (Lamentations 3:1, 17, 20) We all suffer grief and sorrow from time to time, and we must acknowledge it, not ignore it or believe it will just go away. We grieve the loss of loved ones, jobs, businesses, relationships…that is good, just name it and don’t ignore it.
- Cry out for help. We were made to live in community, with God and with others. Cry out to God for help, especially help for your soul and emotions. Cry out to others for emotional and tangible help in your time of need. A meal, a cup of coffee, the gift of listening or even the gift of a small bill to be paid is not inappropriate. Just don’t go it alone. Jeremiah said, “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 3:22-23)
- Wait…look forward to a brighter future. Know that your situation is temporary. Jeremiah continues, “The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.” (Lamentations 3:25-26)
Three steps for increasing hope (paraphrased from the book Hope Rising by Casey Gwinn and Chan Hellman):
- Set goals. As you acknowledge the reality of your situation, determine where you want to go and what it will look like when you come out the other side of this situation. Also, capture what are you learning and how can you apply it in the future as you go through this challenging time.
- Determine the steps you will need to take to achieve your goals. Psychologist Rick Snyder called this “waypower,” focusing on the pathways toward the goal. There are many small steps you will need to take; remember, you only need to take one at a time, but take the first step, and then keep going.
- Believe you will achieve. Stay focused and determined. Snyder called this “agency” or willpower. He said, “It is the motivational aspect of hope.” It is what will drive you to get up in the morning and keep going. Why is this goal important? What obstacles will you need to overcome? What rewards will you obtain along the way? These things will keep you going.
From Hope Rising:
“Hope is the idea that you have goals you desire to achieve, you can identify pathways toward the goals, and you can direct and sustain your willpower toward the goal and pathways necessary to reach those goals.”
In Paul’s letter to the Romans, he said, “Such hope [in God’s promises] never disappoints us…” Lament, and then hope! You can make a way toward a better future.