Australia it’s time to lament
As she looks like a widow,
who was once great among the nations!
She who was queen among the provinces
has now become a slave ”. (Lamentations 1: 1)
The streets of Melbourne are deserted. Schoolyards are empty except for the occasional gust of wind that moves the leaves from end to end. Office buildings have become catacombs. Football fields are empty of competition and children chasing football.
What lessons will we learn from this once in a 100-year pandemic? What truths will resurface now that so many of our habits have come to a standstill and the excesses have gone to containment?
Thank God for some of these helpful diversions. We are not, however, acting wisely if we use them to cover the growing crevices that are appearing in our society and in our own souls.
In life, there is time for play and fun. There is a time to rejoice and celebrate. There is also a time of mourning.
As the months progress, Australians can’t wait for a day of celebration; a national day of festivities to announce the end of the pandemic. Many Australians are also skeptical and wonder if this day will be pushed further and further as government expectations change. I certainly can’t wait for the day to arrive when we will be assured of no longer having lockdowns and when we will reach 80% of the population fully vaccinated. However, if we rejoice quickly, we are bypassing important lessons that can be discovered now.
I’m not one to dismiss the momentary distractions that serve to alleviate the pandemic symptoms we all face. Thank God for some of these helpful diversions. We are not, however, acting wisely if we use them to cover the growing crevices that are appearing in our society and in our own souls. We have a time, dare I suggest, a God-given time, to reassess the great questions of life.
Last year, I came up with a series of life topics that the pandemic could have an impact on. Among the suggestions was a question mark about the sexual revolution. Could COVID-19 slow down the sexual revolution? At the time, I was not sure. What we have seen over the past 18 months is that moral progressivism has not overtaken the pandemic. Its course is deliberate and continues to cut through our culture at first speed. Far from slowing down, the sexolution has crisscrossed the roundabouts and traffic lights of this pandemic with great skill, ensuring that legislation continues unabated.
Victoria is the state that has passed legislation that can jail Christians for talking or praying with someone about sexuality or gender.
On the one hand, our society speaks out against the abuse of women, while on the other, Victoria decriminalizes sex work, as if it is a great moment of emancipation.
Part of the problem is how our Australian psyche demands happiness without repentance. We want success without humility.
Last week a national campaign received a megaphone in our newspapers. The goal was to increase disbelief in God just as Australians took part in the 2021 census. Letting God down has become a national topic of discussion when instead we should kneel down before our Creator and ask for His. mercy.
Despite the mantra of “everyone being in the same boat”, we are seeing a lot of boasting, selfishness, political coups and growing civil unrest. The expression “it is not the hour of politics” has lost all meaning, that is, if it ever had any substance to begin with. Far from being an empty phrase, it is sharpened into a political weapon to strike at opponents and provoke further divisions.
This pride is shared by the left and the right and everywhere in the middle. Imagine how much more united and together we will be if this pandemic continues into 2022 ?!
Part of the problem is how our Australian psyche demands happiness without repentance. We want success without humility. We want prosperity without generosity. What if the Australian dream was flawed? What if we deprive ourselves of a better life because of a bad posture we have adopted?
We are not very good at learning from history. For example, in the 6th century BC, the city of Jerusalem was devastated. The population had progressed, at least they believed it. They had strayed from many of their traditions and old ways of thinking. They didn’t do away with the belief in God as such, but they made new gods to support the sexual and economic policies they wanted to normalize. And they deconstructed all those scriptures that did not offer steadfast support for their new life pursuits.
While Jerusalem was in ruins, the Book of Lamentations was written. The Lamentations is one of the most forgotten books in the Bible. Given the subject, we understand why. But maybe our extraordinary situation forces us to open this difficult book. It’s a heartbreaking book to read given the tale it tells of what went wrong and the severe suffering that was left behind. The author of Lamentations speaks of people making fun of those in distress and hardening their resolve against God. This expansive lament is honest in its recognition of human sin, of the righteousness of God, of the despair that accompanies suffering, and of the only source of hope:
Do we agree with these feelings?
“The Lord is righteous,
yet I rebelled against his command. (1:18)
Can we pronounce words like these?
I remember my affliction and my wandering,
bitterness and gall.
I remember them well,
and my soul is crushed in me.
Yet that I remember
and so I have hope:
Let him sit alone in silence,
for the Lord has put it on him.
Let him bury his face in the dust—
there may still be hope. (Lamentations 3: 19-21, 29)
Can we conclude,
“Because of the great love of the Lord, we are not consumed,
for his mercies never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your fidelity.
I tell me: “The Lord is my part;
that is why I will wait for him. (3: 22-24)
Understand, the Lament did not come to the place of hope without first lamenting his condition. Again, this is one of our regular failures as Australians. Instead of blaming God or excluding God, the writer takes responsibility. It is this condition of humility that we have become accustomed to avoiding. Instead of learning, it seems we Australians prefer to keep that pride, and that doesn’t bode well for the future.
Learn from the author of Lamentations. And listen to Jacques’ book,
“Gcry, cry and moan. Change your laughter into mourning and your joy into sadness. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. “ (James 5: 9-10)
It must be said that one will not read in my words a meaning which is not there: one cannot assimilate such and such suffering to such and such a sin. God has not said a word about COVID 19. This means that we must treat anyone who makes such claims with extreme caution. We can say, however, that suffering, in general, is a sign of a cursed and fallen world, and that these pains can serve as a strong call to understand our mortality and our need for a Divine Savior.
Finding a purpose in trials also does not lessen the very real suffering attached to plagues and other trials. The apostle Peter could simultaneously speak of finding joy and the suffering of pain in the same event,
“In all of this you rejoice greatly, although now, for a while, you must have been grieving in all kinds of trials. “ (1 Peter 1: 6).
Above all, remember Jesus who endured all kinds of hardships, which not only characterized him as the understanding God, but served as his substitute. He is the Son of God who never needs to suffer and yet in love has chosen this path for us.
“He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like the one people hide their faces from
he was despised and we held him in low esteem.
Surely he took our pain
and carried our sufferings,
yet we considered him to be punished by God,
struck by him and grieved. (Isaiah 53: 3-4)
Instead of discrediting this long period of pandemic, we could slow down a bit and think about the very issues we spend so much time trying to avoid. You see, trials scratch the surface and expose our deepest desires, fears, and dreams. They are also used to teach us how we should not take for granted the many things that we value in life. Too often our habit is to misinterpret our abundant freedoms and pleasures and turn them into rights and demands as if God owed us something.
Charles Spurgeon was a man more than familiar with suffering. He offers this astute observation: “Trials teach us what we are; they dig the earth and see what we’re made of.
What do we learn about ourselves during COVID-19?
John Donne is one of the great poets of the English language. Donne lived through one of the many plagues that have struck Europe over the centuries. Like so many others living in the 17th century, John Donne was familiar with tragedy. 5 of his children died before the age of 10 and his wife died at a young age. As the city of London was again ravaged by disease, John Donne fell ill. He survived, but during each of the 23 days of illness he wrote a meditation. Meditation 17 is the best known. for these 2 lines,
“no man is an island”
“Don’t ask who the bell is ringing for, because it is ringing for you.”
Every day, London church bells rang to announce the most recent deaths of Londoners. As Donne lay on his sickbed, unsure if it would become his deathbed, he could hear the bells ringing. He was not oblivious to this daily public cry, but rather in the sound he heard a graceful reminder.
“No man has enough affliction, which is not ripened and matured by it, and made worthy of God by this affliction … Tribulation is a treasure in the nature of it, but it is not. money running out in its use, unless we come closer to it and closer to our home, heaven, by it. Another may be sick too, and sick to death, and this affliction may reside in his bowels, as gold in a mine, and be of no use to it; but this bell which tells me its affliction, digs and applies this gold to me: if by this consideration of the danger of others, I take mine in our only security.
As we all look forward to the day when mass restrictions are behind us and some semblance of normalcy returns, let’s not dismiss the treasure found right now, the treasure seized by John Donne and millions beside it.