Stuck But Not Hopeless: Lessons from a Global Pandemic
March 16, 2020 will be one of those dates that I will never forget. I vividly remember sitting in the office with the other pastors on Monday as former President Trump announced the “14 days to slow the spread” campaign.
As our city followed the nationwide protocols, we scrambled to adjust to what church would look like. There would be no more youth group for the next few months. All summer activities, including our much-anticipated mission trip to Nicaragua, were cancelled. For the next few months, all I could think about was COVID. It was overwhelming at times. Slowly, it became second nature to try to plan a weekly program or event with COVID in mind. I’m sure I’m not the only one, but not a day has gone by that I have not at least thought about COVID. I am positive the same is true for our students: every day they have not only thought about but lamented COVID and everything that it has brought to our world.
There was one good thing that we all learned though: COVID was not and is not going to stop the Gospel. Jesus Christ is still alive and well. His message of redemption from sin is still being faithfully preached. We’ve just had to adjust our practices to accommodate the new guidelines and orders.
Caught In the Coils
If there is one pre-pandemic practice that I look forward to getting back to, it is not thinking about the pandemic. The best way that I can describe this is the analogy of what happens to a creature, let’s say a mouse, when it is caught by a boa-constrictor. When the mouse is first grabbed, it panics. The only thing that it can comprehend is its imminent demise. Let’s say, though, that the boa constrictor decides not to eat the mouse. Slowly the coils loosen, and as they do, the mouse’s thoughts move from the immediate present to what it is going to do in the near future. It knows that it is still caught by an evil snake, but the grip is loosening. Slowly but surely the coils fall off and the mouse can consider running towards safety. Finally, the mouse is free and scampers off. Pretty soon, it has completely forgotten about what happened to it and can move on with its life, hoping never to be caught be a snake again. The misery, terror, and fear fade into the background only to be brought up every once in a while, by the rustle of grass or the slither of another snake.
I am still in the loosening of the coils phase. The restrictions are not as bad as they used to be, but they are still ever- present. I am thinking about the future and what this summer is going to hold for my students and our church, but I am still dealing with the raging pandemic.
Practicing Hope in Jesus
This is where Jesus has met me, specifically through the words of Paul in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18. He writes:
Therefore, we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So, we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
Someday, maybe on this earth but definitely in heaven, we will no longer be consumed by thoughts of COVID or even the trials and tribulations of normal, everyday life. This is the great hope that Christians have, that all things will be made new. Jesus has had to constantly remind me, especially in the sorrow of cancelled events and missed mission trips, that there is still a reason for hope.
This is something that our students desperately need to be reminded of. From sixth graders to seniors, our students need to know and understand that there is hope, that life won’t always be this way. The COVID pandemic has exacerbated mental and emotional health issues in our teenagers. They are having to deal with the loss of school, sports, events, hangouts with their friends, and some even the loss of loved ones to COVID. They, and maybe you, are stuck in the grip of the snake.
All hope is not lost, though. Even though the snake’s coils seem tight, Jesus is the snake-crusher who provides ultimate hope and healing. Someday, perhaps in the near future, COVID will be a distant memory that only surfaces when we tell the stories of what we had to go through. When we fix our eyes on the unseen promises of God, we can trust that no matter what happens on this earth, He is sovereign and He reigns. No matter what this life brings our way, we can enjoy it despite the struggle, because the promise of our renewal means we will have eternal, everlasting life.
Ultimately, the pre-pandemic practice that I am looking forward to getting back to is one that the pandemic helped teach me: to not lose heart or hope despite life circumstances. My eternal soul is safe and secure in the arms of the Father. I am not consumed by the coils of the snake, but free to live and enjoy the gifts that I have been given. I am free to look forward to the unseen promise of eternal glory with my Lord and Savior.