When COVID-19 started becoming a public concern, I was en route to a conference with 5,000 leaders from East Asia. The conference did a remarkable job at communicating with us and managing the situation. It’s a tribute to them and to the Lord’s hand that to this date, none of us have been impacted (at least for what has been reported so far).
As the news grew and social isolation became more and more the norm, the Lord reminded me of the power of lament as well as the hope hidden within that concept. So we held a public Facebook Live prayer event where God gave me a passage from Lamentations to share:
His mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is Your faithfulness.
‒ Lamentations 3:22-23
This poem sits in the middle of one of Israel’s most devastating moments, reflecting on the loss of their beloved city which they thought was promised to them forever. Most of the book, Lamentations, is moaning the losses they felt and the profound loss of this important city. Yet, in the middle of the book, what many consider to be a crucial point in Hebrew poetry, God embeds this great promise: in the midst of overwhelming trials, God’s love is faithful and His mercy walks with us: new every morning!
A few months later, while the distancing measures became more intense, our Asian Access family had a global prayer call and God gave me another passage to reflect on. It was during the time we were hearing the beginnings of some of the worst impacts from COVID-19: everything from economic disaster in most of the countries we serve to heartbreaking stories of lost lives, isolation and desperation. In this, I sensed God’s call in our lives ‒ the same call that prophet Isaiah spoke about and Jesus Himself used at the inauguration of His ministry:
because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;
to grant to those who mourn in Zion ‒
to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;
that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified,
They shall build up the ancient ruins;
they shall raise up the former devastations;
they shall repair the ruined cities,
the devastations of many generations.
‒ Isaiah 61:1-4
For me, in the midst of our lament, the Lord is reminding us that He is there with us in the midst of this global pandemic. Things may get worse, and they will get better, yet God is there with us along the way.
And, while we are still in the depths of this crisis, God has called us to be a healing balm for the nations, to bring comfort to the suffering, good news to the poor, liberty for those who are isolated. He wants us to repair the ruins around us as well as share the hope of our Lord: the year of the Lord’s favor.
I trust the Lord is speaking to you as well … What are you hearing from Him? How can you be a light in the midst of the darkness?