How do we live hopeful and faithful lives in a world that seems full of fear? We worry about climate change. We struggle with the growing homelessness in our own communities. When will the next COVID surge hit and will my family be safe? In our own country, we deal with institutional racism, and the ongoing effects of white supremacy. And the divisions between us only seem to grow. Those of us with children and grandchildren worry about the legacy we are leaving, what kind of world will they face? In the midst of all this, the question that often comes up is, “Where do we find hope?
I think the first step is being honest. We need to: (1) Name the pain, (2) Feel the pain, and (3) Pray the pain.
Name the Pain: We must always be honest with ourselves and others. Yes, there are lots of things that can make us fearful. What pain or fears have you faced, especially in the last two years? What losses have you endured? What do you worry about when you wake up in the middle of the night? Write these down. Perhaps journal about them and put words to them. As I think about COVID, my own fears have often grown out of a feeling of lack of control. I don’t like it when I do all I can and yet can’t guarantee my own safety or that of my loved ones. Add that to the simple effects of getting older and it can make me feel vulnerable and sometimes even a little feeble.
Feel the Pain: We need to spend enough time with this pain, these fears, that we are not shoving them under the rug. Perhaps in our writing, we could figure out: (a) what about that fear or pain continues to worry us or bother us, (b) are there ways that the fear/pain manifests itself in our lives or outlook? In my fears, COVID and being older may tempt me to hunker down and isolate. Yet I know that is the opposite of what I should be doing. So sometimes I need to push myself out and not let my fear or worry control what I actually do.
Pray the Pain: I find it terribly important to express the pain/fear to God. There is great precedent for this in the Scriptures as faithful people lamented and cried out to God. We might follow their example. Even Jesus, on the cross, quoted the lament of Psalm 22, crying out to God, “Why have you forsaken me?” We can pray the words of Psalm 6:6 from our own heart, “I am weary with my moaning; every night I flood my bed with tears; I drench my couch with weeping.” It is okay to yell at God, cry to God, to express your anger with God and the state that we seem to be in. I find it helpful to pray the pain/fear. I have talked to God about getting older and about COVID. I have expressed my fears. And God’s answer always seems to be “press on, get out, love your neighbors, help others with their problems and yours won’t seem to so big.”
Those are the first steps: Name the Pain, Feel the Pain, Pray the Pain. Having been fully honest with ourselves and with God about our fears and pain, Part 2 of this blog will outline some ways that we can find hope and faith in the midst of pain and fear.