It is Ok to Mourn: Good Friday and COVID-19

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We should mourn this Good Friday. The coronavirus has enveloped the globe in a cloud of black death. It has also reached into the church and overturned her basket of well-planned Easter events, sending Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Sunday morning services wobbling across the floor to cancelation. When the glorious Easter sunrise fills the horizon this Sunday, there will be no loud congregational singing, giddy children, or sweet hugs of friendship circulating though our church. We will remain home, isolated from friends. Though the world has suffered under the curse of sin for thousands of years, the isolation of holy week brings the sorrow of sin into our souls anew. For the first time in years, many of our hearts feel the words of Psalm 22:1 that Jesus screamed on the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

During such times of profound brokenness, Christians should run to the Lord. Like the great King David who faced many piercing trials, Christians should confess their anguish to God. They should ask God,

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all day (Ps 13:1-2a)?

The Coronavirus’s ability to disrupt the church calendar should serve as a powerful reminder of how broken our world is and of how much we need Jesus. We should allow the cancellation of our services to lead our hearts to humble and persistent cries for deliverance. “O you my help, come quickly to my aid! (Ps 22:19),” The Coronavirus is a problem of divine proportions than can only be solved by a divine antidote.

The antidote will come. The message of Good Friday is that Jesus conquers sin and death. For thousands of years, human culture has been trying to find antidotes to the brokenness of the world through education, feeding programs, and medicine. All of human efforts have failed. Men and women remain tied to pride, greed, lust, and selfishness. Sin is a problem of cosmic proportions that no person, nation, or culture can conquer. Yet, Jesus conquered it on the cross. He was forsaken by God so that we might be welcomed into heaven. Jesus died for our sins and then rose again on the third day to prove he had delivered his children from sin. Those who repent and believe can follow Jesus to love, generosity, and selflessness. But to get to salvation, men and women must wrestle with their brokenness. They must realize they are sinners before they can cry out for a savior and embrace his salvation. Only those who know they are drowning will let the lifeguard rescue them.

The pattern of Good Friday serves as a template for the Church as she encounters new symptoms of sin and death in the world. To find relief from this world, we must admit that we suffer and need God’s help. “Save me from the mouth of the lion (Ps. 22:21a).” When we take our grieving souls to God, we find deliverance. “You have rescued me from the horns of the wild oxen (Ps. 22:21b)!” Friends, the Coronavirus is a cosmic problem that God will recuse us from.

While we wait for the virus to end, many of us will become more aware of how much we miss the gathered body of Christ. We will be tempted to find unscriptural antidotes for our pain. Though we should embrace biblical forms of encouragement, we must resist the urge to drink the hyssop, an ancient pain reliever, that was offered to Jesus on the cross. (For more on my view of online church click here). If we turn to virtual Lord’s Supper, sermon binge watching, and zoom calls to treat our feelings of loneliness, we will not solve our sorrows for we still remain physically apart from our brothers and sisters We can touch the screen, but we cannot touch the face on the screen. If we try to fix our sorrows through human ingenuity, we will commit the mistake of the neglected spouse who copes with her distant marriage through romance novels. She may feel less pain while reading them. But when the chapters end, her marriage problems remain, and her heart has moved further away from her husband. The believer who feels neglected by God does not need a drive-in Easter service, he needs divine deliverance. He needs God to mercifully end the COVDI-19 crisis. If he fails to cry out to the Father as David and Jesus did because he is drinking grape juice and eating Ritz crackers in his home, he will neglect the biblical means of hope: prayer. He will find himself further from God. Just as those who fast allow hunger pains to drive them to pray, Christians should allow the pain of missed hugs, Lord’s Supper celebrations, congregational singing, public Scripture readings, and preached sermons to drive them to their knees in prayer. Instead trying to mitigate our sorrow through increased Wi-Fi bandwidth and FM transmitters, we need to join Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane and pour out our prayers of lament to the Father for he alone can help us.

If there ever was a religion that made sense of our lonely world and that gave us a space to mourn while we await salvation, it is Christianity. Christians have both the sorrow of the cross and the joy of the empty tomb. We can mourn our loneliness while we wait for our salvation from COVID-19.

The Past Gives Believers Hope For the Future

The sound of engines slowly roused the three airmen sloshing about the Pacific Ocean on the morning of May 27, 1943.  After a day o415th_Bombardment_Squadron_-_B-24_Liberatorn the open sea, the airmen who had miraculously survived their a crash landing began to experience a little hope. As they looked towards the sky on that cloudy morning, they saw  it, a beautiful B-24 flying high above them. Louis Zamperini, grabbed the crew’s flare gun, braced himself against the back of the rubber raft, and fired. The flare went up, arched, burst into a greenish hue, and then slowly flamed out. But the plane above didn’t change course. Soon it disappeared. The the sound of the engines faded behind the noise of the ocean’s waves. The three men clinging to the two 6’ long rubber rafts now almost faced certain death.  They had no compass, map, or method of propulsion.

The searches were over. The following day, the U.S. War department would declare all 11 men on Louis’ plane dead. For forty-seven days, Louis and Phil would float aimless about the Pacific Ocean. Mac, the tail gunner, died from exhausting after about two weeks adrift.

But Louie and Phil kept fighting. Yet, things never got easier. They had to fend off shark attacks with their fist. They had to contend with extreme hunger and thirst. They had to bail the water out of their boat for hours while they were tossed about by a typhoon. Each day seemingly only brought more trouble, more disappointment, and more hardship for the men. But they kept going because they remembered their families. Specifically, Louie would describe in-detail his mother’s cooking. He would go over every course of every of meal. It was the memories of the past, that enabled Louie and Phil to survive adrift in the ocean until they were finally rescued on day 47.

men at seaAnd though none of us have been left adrift on the ocean, most of us how felt as like we were drifting aimlessly about the ocean of life at one time or another. And every day we bob about, we face a new struggle, a new sickness, or a new adversary. As Christians how are we supposed to handle the hardships of life? How do fight the temptation to give up when we face never ending attacks of lust, when we feel spiritually parched, and when we are tossed about by the storms of life? How do keep going with no end in sight?

We remember. We remember what Christ has done. It is the glory of the cross that gives us the strength to face tomorrow. This is why Christians need to partake regularly in the Lord’s Table. We need to be reminded of all that God has done for us. We need to be reminded that we have been liberate from sin. We need to be reminded that the wages of sin our death and that the gift of God is eternal life. We need to be reminded that Christ shed blood on the cross has brought us life. We are changed not because of our efforts. We are changed, we are redeemed, and we have hope because of what Christ has done. And because Christ had done the work. We cannot undo it. We are forever with Christ regardless of what today brings. Therefore, we have hope because of what has been done for us!

This Easter season, we should be excited to take the Lord’s Table because it reminds us that we have been delivered from our sin. Though there is a real and coming judgment, Christ blood has done all the work of redemption. We take the table to proclaim what Christ has done. “And he said to them, ““This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many”” (Mark 14:24). And as we take the elements, we preach to our hearts the encouraging truth of the gospel. We remind our souls that we are the redeemed.  

It is good for us to remember all that Christ has done. It is good for us to observe the Lord’s Table. Jesus is our hope! The cross shows us how to make sense of today and gives up hope for tomorrow! Is the past informing and transforming your life?