I began 2021 in quarantine with COVID.
I am ending 2021 in quarantine with COVID.
A year ago, almost to the day, my son came down with the coronavirus. A few days later, I got it. (Primarily because I am cheap and shared a large bowl of ice cream with him at Creamistry…but that is another story.)
This past week, my son again came down with the coronavirus. Two days later, I tested positive as well.
Same story. Same virus. Just a different variant.
And this variant seems to be spreading faster than last year’s version since we have two others in our household with it now.
Another COVID Christmas.
I wish my son would stop regifting the stuff he doesn’t want.
Thankfully, so far, the symptoms have been fairly mild. I pray that it stays that way.
Sitting here in quarantine, reflecting on 2021, I realize that it has been a tough year.
It began with promise. “Hey, at least, it isn’t 2020!”
But it quickly went downhill from there.
Another COVID surge.
An ice storm.
Another COVID surge.
Another COVID surge.
In the midst of all that, I think I performed more funerals and tried to comfort and encourage more people this past year than any other.
It was a long year.
And I feel tired.
Part of it is probably the coronavirus trying to spread through my body.
Part of it is probably discouragement trying to spread through my emotions.
We are a future-oriented people.
We are constantly looking ahead. Making predictions. Reading forecasts. Projecting ourselves into future situations.
Our anxieties, worries, and fears are usually tied to what we see coming down the pike.
When it doesn’t look good, we easily give in to discouragement, despondency, depression…even despair.
I have felt some of that.
One of the things that has amazed me about this coronavirus is how quickly it has spread around the globe.
A few weeks ago, we heard about the omicron variant in South Africa. Doctors issued warnings. Nations shut down borders. International flights were cancelled. Yet, here we are watching that variant spread throughout the world.
Here I am sitting in my living room, most likely with the omicron variant in my body.
All the way from South Africa to Baton Rouge via a supply chain of unwitting human carriers.
We are more connected than ever.
The world is flatter than ever.
And we seem to be more divided than ever.
It is hard to listen to the news, read the newspaper, scroll through social media and not feel fear, anger, pessimism, cynicism.
We have lost any sense of national unity…any sense of common ground…any sense of being of the same human family.
The trajectory of our nation…of our world…doesn’t look good.
In the midst of the national crisis of the civil war, Abraham Lincoln called the nation to prayer, fasting, and humility before God. In today’s political climate, we try to figure out who to blame, who to be angry at, who to hate.
If we want to find the problem, we don’t have to look too much further than ourselves.
We have found the enemy and he is us.
There is something fundamentally wrong with the human heart.
There is something fundamentally wrong with our world.
The coronavirus is just one symptom of it.
Our anger, division, hatred, and blameshifting are another.
We are selfish people living in a sin-cursed world.
And we desperately need a Savior.
Maybe the fact that two COVID surges have happened two years in a row around Christmas and New Years is a reminder that our hope can’t be found in the things of this world…but in a Savior who has come to save the world.
It won’t be found when the ball drops but when we drop to our knees.
Yes, I am tired.
A little discouraged.
But my hope is unshaken.
I began 2021 preaching through the Psalms of lament. In crying out to God in the midst of difficult times, the psalmists generally asked two questions:
And “how long?”
The first question longs for meaning. Does all this have a purpose? Will it make sense in the end?
The second question longs for relief. When will all this pain end? Is there any hope for the future?
Both questions are answered in Romans 8, the passage that I preached through at the end of 2021.
Creation is groaning, longing for redemption.
We are groaning, longing for redemption.
BUT we have a hope for future glory.
We have the help of the Spirit of God.
And we have a God who is holding us with a love that absolutely will not let us go.
He proved it in His Son Jesus Christ.
And God’s purpose in our lives is not to make us comfortable but to conform us into the image of His Son.
To reverse all that was lost in Adam.
To make us new creations.
Fully reconciled to God.
Fully displaying His glory.
Fully fulfilling our purpose.
Fully experiencing His joy.
In the meantime, we are called to endure, to persevere, to not grow weary in well-doing but to remember that the harvest is coming if we faint not.
We are also called to rest in Him.
To put the future in His hands.
To trust in His sovereignty.
Because the story is already written.
And its ending is glorious.
Maybe 2022 is the year.
Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!