Lament & Thanksgiving in the Midst of a Pandemic

    04.11.20 | by Meg Sumner

    I had a dream the other night that the pandemic was over.  We all emerged from our homes like bears out of hibernation.  We were all so happy.  Then I woke up.  I woke up to the voice in my head that said, “another day in the house”, to the news telling me updated death and tolls and a continuous chant of “stay at home.’  I find myself teetering between lament and thanksgiving.  True to my personality the middle area is hard to find.  How about you? 

    As I sit in both of those places, I find God sitting with me as well.  I lament for the world to be made right, for cures to be found, for those grieving to be not alone, for work to be found, and for ways to love to seem easier than they do right now.  Then I find myself grateful, grateful for a house that holds those I love, for a freezer and pantry that keeps us well fed, for coffee… (oh, friends, I am so thankful for coffee!).  I am thankful for God’s still small voice that speaks to each of us individually and still collectively.  I am thankful that all the needs of this world are not up for me to meet.

    I think I am learning that this season actually needs space for both lament and thanksgiving.  The swing can be exhausting but if we choose to only focus on one, we miss the fullness of God.  This is also the tension between Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday.  We are known and held by a God that knew disappointment and suffering as well as the God who holds the future and knows that He is even now working out redemption.  When I read the Psalms, I see the psalmist being honest with where they are at and what they are desiring and yet returning to praise.

    What would it look like for us to do this well in this season?  Maybe try a spiritual practice that allows you to be both present with God and yourself in either of these places. 

    Lament:

    How to do I sit and hold my brokenness, the world’s brokenness to God?  Here’s a few suggested spiritual practices:

    • Find a Psalm and work to memorise it – let the Scripture help give voice to the prayers of lament.
    • Who do you know that could use a “I see you” and “I love you” as they sit in places of lament? Reach out to them and work to empathize and not ‘cheer up’. 
    • This also might be a good time to look at how you “soothe” your sadness. Do you seek escape via unhealthy coping mechanisms such as anger or alcohol? Notice the things that tug at you and invite God into that place as well.
    Thanksgiving:

    How can you incorporate a disciple of thanksgiving into your daily routine? 

    • As you wash your hands think of 10 things for your 10 fingers to thank God for. Big and small – they all count. 
    • Maybe now is a good time to encourage your family members to start of gratitude journal.
    • Go for a walk and notice creation as work praise God and join in with that.

    Just like the bears coming out after hibernation, we too will and are emerging.  Thanks be to God!

    Meg Sumner is a spiritual director and a mother of two teens.