I think that’s been the prominent descriptor for what I have felt since we all went into quarantine almost 6 months ago. It is hard to fathom how quickly all of our lives changed in a blink of an eye.
The outside world was now closed off to all of our family apart from absolute essentials. I went from dropping my kids off at school to trying to wrap my head around what instant homeschool looks like. The job I deeply love – speaking and preaching to others – slammed to a halt as crowds of more than 10 were now forbidden. I became worried for my parents and my in-laws – all of whom fall in the “at risk” category for Coronavirus.
Worries amplified. Income dried up. Rhythm of life disrupted. It all came so fast and so strong. It felt like a wave of darkness and fear came rushing over me before I could process it all. The darkness, for a time at least, had overwhelmed me and had left me staggered, silent and swallowed by isolation.
My heart – divided by worry, insecurity, uncertainty – was at a loss. It felt like I was emotionally and spiritually paralyzed. There was no means by which I was going to pull myself up by the bootstraps and get out of this one. This was beyond the scale and scope of my own strength and will to press on.
All I could do was pray. I prayed that all of this COVID mess would go away. That the sick would be healed. That businesses could be free to operate again. Normalcy restored. But I also asked to see a glimmer of hope in all of this. I wanted to see the light in the midst of all my dark.
It was that prayer that God kindly and quickly answered by bringing a sermon to mind I had preached a few months before. It was a sermon rooted in Hebrews 12:1-2:
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”
These verses follow the famous chapter dubbed “The Hall of Fame of Faith,” a chapter centered on the faith of people that God used in amazing ways. Yet, it also a chapter detailing the faithfulness of God towards those who doubt, disobey, wander and worry. Abraham was impatient. David chose flesh over faith. Noah drowned his problems in alcohol even after the flood waters receded.
All were men of faith and all of them had a war going on inside their hearts. It is the war that echoes the words of the serpent in Eden, “Did God really say?” The doubts and the desperation for a better life drug these men away from their true love. But even in their worst, the founder and author of their faith has a promise for the serpent who spoke that Edenic lie.
From Genesis 3 on, there’s a gospel thread that marches through Scripture even as every person along the way stumbles into sin – the promise marches forward. Even as the promise is conceived in a scared, unwed teenager and is born in a barn, God in flesh gladly embraced the work of His Father.
He grew in stature and His public ministry ensued. His hometown gossiped about Him. The Pharisees opposed Him. The crowd killed Him. The disciples left Him. All of this? For what?
For the joy set before Him. For the glory of His Father. For the chance to be the firstborn among many that His life and death was now the saving grace for. His work on Golgotha becomes the singular focus for those of us who call Him Lord.
We cast off the multitude of weights and sins that divide our heart and rob our hope. We fix our eyes on our ONLY hope. We look to the only one who has been faithful to us, even as we find ourselves full of faults. We look to the One who authors our life and our hope. Even as darkness chokes out every bit of happiness around us, we look to the One glimmer of light we have.
We look to Him who died so we could live. Who absorb wrath so that we don’t have to taste the full force of it. We look to Him who loves us even as we leave over…and over…and over again. We fix our eyes on a promise that we can’t purchase and that we can’t push away. When there’s nowhere else to look, we look at Him.