This season has been a whirlwind in the truest sense of the word. In early March, a tornado swept through Middle Tennessee and devastated parts of our community.
My church lamented stories of families who lost homes and loved ones. We shared concern for gentrification and poverty encroaching on the vulnerable. We grieved that poorer black neighborhoods were once again receiving less coverage and slower response to community needs. Some of us acknowledged “survivor guilt” that our homes and families were untouched by the storm. We collectively gave these burdens over to the Lord in prayer, and strategized specific ways to respond to the needs of our community.
Just as we sorted through the aftermath of tornado trauma, local news reported that the first confirmed case of the COVID-19 had hit the Tennessee county where I live. Grocery stores were immediately swamped with panic-induced shopping. Yet my mind was flooded with memories of another season where grace fought to replace fear that grew in my mother heart.
On March 5, 2004 we brought our newborn home after 14 weeks in the NICU. Our family was uncertain yet hopeful about uncharted territory with our premature daughter. Providentially we named her Charis which means “grace”.
In the midst of lengthy home instructions, the neonatologists cautioned us about a common virus called RSV. I had never heard of it, but because Charis was still dependent on oxygen, contracting this respiratory virus could quickly become serious, even deadly for her. We were instructed to quarantine her from public places through RSV season and to be extra diligent about hand washing.
Ripples of fear increased I as I wondered how we could protect our fragile baby in a home with three school-aged siblings, ages 10, 8 and 4. I would have given every cent I owned to magically insulate my family from the threat of disease. As I cried out to God and lamented this frightening and seemingly impossible situation, He showed me how grace was already woven into our hard season.
My kids had developed a sweet bond with their little sister during intermittent NICU visits. God had kept the siblings healthy so Chris and I were able to bring them to visit and watched Charis grow. I learned that our area hospital was unique in even allowing children to come in the NICU. In the midst of hard predictions and more tests than I even knew were possible, our little girl had defied the odds and grown to 8 pounds.
On and on, God reminded me of His faithfulness. And I prayed words from the hymn ’Tis So Sweet, “Oh for grace to trust Him more”.
In God’s great mercy He kept RSV from our family. Following the doctor’s instructions was challenging, but we took it one day at at time, lived and loved well.
Recalling God’s faithfulness is a biblical exercise that was expected from the people of Israel. In Lamentations 3 the prophet Jeremiah lamented his difficult road of affliction, yet the narration takes a hopeful turn.
“But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning;
Great is your faithfulness.”
We do well to remember that the praise of God’s faithfulness comes after the pain of a stormy season. When we find ourselves in these unexpected seasons, we read and remember the timeless truth:
God’s steadfast love never ceases.
God’s mercies never end.
God’s mercies are new every morning.
God’s faithfulness is great.
Young people are watching and absorbing our reactions to stormy seasons, such as this present COVID-19 pandemic. Here are two important things we can do:
Create space for lamenting and sharing pain.
In the first part of Lamentations 3, the prophet tells it like it is – and it is awful. He has seen affliction (v. 1), his flesh and skin waste away (v. 4), he dwells in darkness (v. 6), he feels like his prayers are shut out (v. 8), he is filled with bitterness (vs 15) and has forgotten what happiness is (v. 17).
We are surrounded with people suffering physically from this virus, and many more are suffering financial loss and the lack of human connection. Our youth are struggling with trauma, hardship and pain and could be comforted by this relatable Old Testament prophet who penned God-breathed words. Anyone raising or working with today’s teens knows that they keep it real. This passage reminds us that God welcomes our real and vulnerable selves. God is the only one who can heal what is hurt. As we create this safe and honest space, we come together to the throne of grace for help in our time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)
Remember God’s faithfulness in times past.
As we teach the entirety of scripture, we see God’s faithfulness weaved throughout. We can also remember how God has been faithful in our family stories. I often think of my ancestors who were enslaved, who lived through unthinkable hardship. I marvel at the prayers and perseverance of men and women who secured the right to get an education, to vote, to live and worship together. The courage of these spiritual heroes inspires and motivates me. My parents and grandparents have shared stories of triumph and tragedy and I now pass these on to my four children.
In our self-centered culture, how healthy it is to call teens to remember how God has been faithful. It’s so easy to miss the good when there is so much bad going on. But cultivating remembrance has a wonderful side effect: gratitude. And we all benefit from an attitude of gratitude!
Calling this to mind gave the prophet Jeremiah hope. We have hope – ultimate hope, knowing these stormy seasons won’t last, because we live for something more. The good news of the gospel is that our hope is IN someone – our eternal God! David reminds us of this truth over and over in his storms of discouragement:
“Put your hope in God, for I will still praise Him, my Savior and my God.” Psalms 42:5.
Jesus saved us from sin and His saving power will be with us while we weather the storms. While we’re enduring, let’s continue remembering.