“Due to Covid-19…”

I’m trying to get my refrigerator fixed.

My wife and I bought a brand new GE fridge at the end of May. Not by choice. Our other one became a bit temperamental (bad dad fridge joke, I know). 

The new one’s problem? The digital screen went out. That means no digital buttons to push to get filtered ice or water. 

Normally, it’s not a big deal to call the manufacturer when a major appliance is under warranty and get a repairman to come out to do the job. 

But it’s 2020.

So, obviously, that means back-ordered parts. 

For weeksAnd weeks. And weeks. 

I’ve called GE several times. Every time, I hear this automated message, “Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, expect extended wait times when trying to reach a representative.”

I laughed as I tried to figure out how Covid kept me in line for another 40 minutes. (My family is not laughing. They really want the filtered water and ice back.)

Now, filtered water and a fridge digital display are pretty insignificant, I think we’d all agree. It’s really not that big of a deal.

I share the story not because GE is driving me nuts but because when I heard that automated warning I was struck with yet another reminder of how a virus has taken so much from us. 

An Invisible Thief

Covid-19 has single-handedly ruined senior years, freshman years, eighth-grade years, kindergarten years. Any school year.

It has delayed or canceled weddings and receptions and family vacations. It has kept funeral gatherings under 10 people. Ten

Let that sink in.

It has ripped away income from business owners and families. It has robbed job opportunities from college graduates and others in transition. It has forced bosses to lay off part-time workers who are desperate for that weekly paycheck. 

It kept that high school senior from running her last meet. It kept that young boy from seeing his grandpa one last time before he passed away. It kept the single mom home from work forcing her to wonder how she’d pay for groceries the next week. 

It has kept people from gathering to eat and celebrate and mourn and cheer and sing and dance and laugh and swing and worship and run and swim and do all the things that humans are supposed to do together

All this, not to mention the actual lives Covid has taken.

Scientists and doctors are still learning about this virus. Information comes out daily, even six months into the pandemic.

But if there’s one thing we know about this virus for sure, it’s this: Covid-19 is a thief.

I realized this again yesterday morning when a co-worker referred to a loss we experienced as a team due to Covid-19. He said, “We can’t do anything about it. To me, this is just another thing that Covid stole from us.”

When you lose something or have something taken from you, you experience sorrow. 

There’s a strange emotional cocktail of sadness, anger, and frustration. 

It all produces a sense of disappointment. No matter how big or small the thing you lost was, you just want to cry and scream, “This sucks.” 

It’s hard to describe, isn’t it? But you know it when you feel it.

Acknowledge the Loss, Embrace the Grief

Unfortunately, I think that many of us have become so numb to it that we don’t feel it any longer. Or, worse, we don’t want to.

It’s easy to say, “Let’s move on! Let’s get back to life.” Yes. I’m ready, too.

But getting back to normal doesn’t mean you can escape the sorrow. You can’t rush the grieving process, as much as I’d like to try. (ENTJ here—emotions are not my strong suit, and I’m working on it.)

You may have experienced, horrifically, a death in your family or physical pain as a direct result of Covid. More than likely, it has stolen something else from you, something that brings real joy to your life.

The reason I’m writing this is to tell you that it’s okay to grieve that loss.

You may grieve alone or with family or friends. You may grieve by journaling or running or camping. You may grieve by reading Scripture or prayer. You may grieve through tearful conversations with your spouse or best friend. You may grieve by getting out all the photos (if you have actual photos) or scrolling through last year’s Instagram to remind yourself what was taken from you. 

I won’t tell you how to do it. Just that you must

Why? At the risk of being reductionistic, here are three reasons you should grieve.

Grieving Connects Us to Our Fellow Humans

There are billions of people on the planet right now who have endured significant losses this year due to Covid-19. 

Think about that for a second. 

No two stories are the same, of course. But everyone in the world knows what loss is like because of the same reason at the same time. 

This hasn’t happened in our lifetimes. It’s an opportunity to embrace our shared suffering and shared grieving. We are human together.

This shared grief then allows us to move toward each other for comfort and community. In a world where no one grieves, no one needs anyone else. 

But we all need each other. And universal grief connects us.

That leads to the second thing.

Grieving Frees Us from the Pressure to be Bulletproof

I so badly want to be bulletproof. I want to show my wife, my kids, my friends, my boss that nothing can touch me.

But I’m not bulletproof. And, in my sane moments, I know it. 

Grief opens the door for me to say, “I’ve lost something. Something precious. I’m broken. I’m wounded. I’m not in control here and I’m scared.”

When was the last time you were able to admit that? 

When I actually get to this place, I become more empathetic to others. I’m ready to sit with them in the stink without judgment or the need to fix it (also hard for the ENTJs among us). 

I also receive love, care, and help from others without the feeling that I need to repay them or prove to them that I don’t need their help.

I’m broken. I need help. 

And that’s okay. 

Grieving Takes Us Places We Could Not Otherwise Go

This isn’t an article about why bad things happen. Philosophers and theologians have been writing about that for millennia. And I have my own opinions. 

Let’s at least agree on this: bad things do happen and we have to learn to live with the world we’ve been given.

If we lived in a static, happy-go-lucky world without any problems, we would never grow. We’d be…well, static. This isn’t trying to silver-line the pain. It’s the exact opposite: pain has a purpose. 

We grow because of grief. It’s painful and we kick and scream to avoid it.

But we can’t take a detour around it.

When someone grieves a loss from Covid, we need to resist saying, “At least…” or “It’s not as bad as…” or “It’s the agenda of _____!” or some other comment to deflect from the pain.

It may be a well-intentioned attempt to make someone smile, but it stunts their growth, and ours, and makes us both something less than fully human.

As a Christian, I’m reminded of the Scriptures that sum up Jesus’ humanity like this: “A man of sorrows, acquainted with grief.” 

Christianity provides deep resources to deal with grief, though not because of a system or propositions. 

It’s because of a Person.

A Person who identified with humanity. Became breakable. Endured tremendous sorrow, pain, shame, and grief, only to come out on the other side, fully resurrected and restored. 

I want to get to that place, too. Do you?

Covid has stolen so much from us. It may be a while before the world gets “back to normal,” whatever that means.

In the meantime, let’s grieve our losses. Together.

It’s the most human and normal thing we can do.


Blessed Are Those Who Mourn 2017

If you’ve paid close attention, the last few posts here have been related to lament. That’s mostly because I gave a seminar (earlier today) on that topic at our Cru Winter Conference in Denver.

Another reason—for the recent posts and my interest in giving the seminar—is that much of this past year was lamentable for us. Our family lost much. Of course, with loss comes unique opportunity for gain. And we have gained. But make no mistake, the losses are real. And they hurt.

As I type this, I’m sitting on the fourth floor of the Hyatt Regency in downtown Denver. Fifteenth Street is lined with headlights. Oddly dressed co-eds are pouring into the Convention Center ready to drink a cup (or two) of kindness and cheer. Most, of course, while enjoying the last hours of 2017 are wishing, hoping, longing, that 2018 will be just a bit better.

Perhaps you are, too.

Why? Christian or not, you realize this world is broken. You know, deep down, you are broken. No matter what you encountered in the past year, I’m willing to bet you have reason to mourn something. Unfortunately, turning the clock over to 2018 doesn’t remove the losses and hurts you’ve experienced.

For those of us who are Christians, we have a unique way to deal with this. We call it lament. To lament means to pour out our pain and complaint to God, asking him to make things right—because things in this world (and my life) aren’t as I’d like them to be. If you aren’t a Christian, know that God is more than sufficient to handle your complaints. In fact, it’s during the times of loss and lament that great men and women of faith are made.

So we lament, we mourn. Jesus told us as much. He said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matt. 5:4).

What are we to mourn? My sin—against my wife, my children, my friends, public and private, things done and undone. Sin committed against me—unjust attack or blame, slander, mocking. Affliction that comes from living in a fallen world—cancer, infertility, mental illness, car accidents, hurricanes. Sin and brokenness all around us—abuse, war, racial inequity, famine, genocide, abortion. The list goes on.

The King of the universe tells me, “Be sad!” because not all is as it should be. Even he wept. One of his names is, gloriously, “The Man of Sorrows.” Chew on that.

And how are we comforted? Not with answers. Among the great cry of complaints in the book of Psalms, the solution is never “Oh! God fixed my situation.” No, he tends to do one better: he shows up. His Presence is the fix. And the response sounds like this, “You are my portion and my cup.” “You alone are my refuge.” “You are my dwelling place.”

Blessed are you who mourn, for you shall be comforted. Not with clever solutions, but with the Presence you most need.

We are guaranteed this Presence, in the midst of all our losses, because Jesus, the one who is God’s Presence, lost the Presence of his Father on the cross. All who trust in Jesus now have God’s presence by his Holy Spirit, whom he has given to live in us. Even when I feel alone amidst loss, I’m not alone.

And, ultimately, we are promised that at the end of history, not the end of a calendar year, Jesus will return to this earth to undo all the sad things, wipe away our tears, and make all things new. On that day, we will see Jesus’ face. We will actually be with him.

In all of my family’s sorrow and losses over the past year, the resounding lesson God is pressing into my soul is this: God’s Presence is enough. If I have him, what else do I need?  He often (always?) strips away everything we long for and love to get us to this point. And it hurts. But the reward is more refreshing than we could have ever imagined.

So here’s to 2018. I’m tempted to hope for something better. Instead, perhaps for the first time, I’m expecting the new year to bring losses and hurts—it’s part of the deal. At the same time, however, I’m expecting a far greater gain: the very Presence of God himself, both now and forevermore.

What about you?