Grieving Loss and Reordering Loves

BECKY KIERN|GUEST

Editor’s Note: The following is an excerpt from the book, Christ in the Time of Corona, in which Becky has a chapter.

When 2019 ended, I raised my glass and rejoiced at the conclusion of one of the hardest years of my adult life. I was thrilled to enter into 2020, seeing it as a new year filled with new potential. The first half of my year was planned to the max with travel, speaking engagements, conferences, teaching Bible study groups at my local church, and the publication of my first solo writing project. There was excitement, joy, and expectation; after a season of wandering, I felt as if I finally had direction and was gaining traction.

During the first weekend of March, I was on a trip with friends in South Carolina when I got word of the first COVID-19 infection in Nashville, my hometown. As I traveled home on Monday morning, I found myself walking through empty airports and flying home on empty planes—the spring of 2020 had officially begun. Over the course of the next two weeks, my 2020 calendar went from full to numbingly blank, as every event I was attending or leading was (understandably) canceled. I spent hours on the phone with friends, crying about lost events, anxious about firings and furloughs. And I, like so many, had to learn to work from home in a job which was never meant to be done through a flat, cold, computer screen.

On Monday, March 23rd I finally hit a wall. It became apparent that no amount of wealth, education, or social connection could prevent the experience of loss. This beast was going to deeply affect us all in some way. Any semblance of control seemed to be slipping away, and—if I am honest—the collective experience of loss left me feeling as if I were swimming against a rip tide of grief and fear.

One thing I appreciate about the Bible is how it never sugar-coats the consequences of the Fall (Gen. 3:6–8; Rom. 3:23; Eph. 2:1). Read all of its pages and never once will you find it saying, “I know Adam and Eve made a mistake, but it wasn’t really that bad.” When you read the whole narrative of scripture you find real counsel written by real people who lived in the real world. Its pages are filled with the Lord’s faithfulness towards unfaithful, fear filled, broken men and women, and on that March day (and many other days) I was one of those broken women. I could not make sense of what God was doing, I could not pull myself out of my sorrow, and I could not fix the problems laid before us.

To be clear, I love the Bible not because it honestly reflects the darkness found in our world, but because on every page it reveals God in his steadfast love and power overcoming that darkness (Matt. 5:17; Jn. 1:5, 16:33; 1 Jn. 1:5). The book of Habakkuk is just one example; its words have been my greatest source of hope and humility in the last eleven weeks. The short but impactful book opens with the prophet Habakkuk voicing his fear to the Lord. He sees injustice, immorality, and pain all around him, and he has had enough—you could say, Habakkuk has hit his wall.

But even as Habakkuk comes to the end of himself, his expressions of complaint are all addressed directly to Yahweh (Hab. 1:2,12 & 3:2, 18–19). Habakkuk knew with whom he was wrestling, and that made all the difference (Gen. 2:7; Ex. 3:13–15; 2 Sam. 7:23–24; Ps. 6). The prophet brought his fear before Yahweh, the covenant making and keeping God, and in his care Habakkuk’s fear was transformed into bone-deep faith (Hab. 3:16). The end of the account shows us a man who choses to trust and rejoice, not because the Lord removes all his sorrow, but because the Lord is his Rock, salvation, and strength amidst the sorrow (Hab. 2:12; 3:18–19).

When I hit my wall on March 23rd, I laced up my sneakers, took a long tear-filled prayer walk, then sat down and made three lists. The first was a therapeutic unloading of all the losses in this season—everything I could think of that made me angry, sad, or scared. Once that long, tear-stained list was done, I took each one of those items and placed them into a column either “for grieving” or “for reordering.” This process helped me bring my grief and confusion before Yahweh. Naming my grief gave me space to feel proper sorrow over the numerous losses caused by this COVID-19 season. The column for reordering (an idea from Augustine’s Confessions) gave me perspective to see the sins I often love more than the Lord. I was scared because I love my independence, angry because I love control, and anxious because I desire a fruitful career. Like Habakkuk I was upset, wondering how long I would have to endure this sorrowful season.

In some ways Habakkuk was right to be enraged and grieved at the injustice around him. As people who bear the image of God, our desire for justice—for light in the darkness of this world—is a reflection of his image. We are even given a picture of this as Jesus wept in John 11 over the death of his friend and the sorrow it caused. I believe we should grieve and be angry at the pain caused by COVID-19, the loss of work, the sickness and death, the lost joy of graduation and wedding parties. We should wake up each day knowing there will be good moments to celebrate and hard moments to add to our list of losses. But with confident hope we must remember that neither the rise of the Babylonians nor this pandemic took God by surprise. God did not go on a weekend trip with friends only to come home to find the pandemic had spread beyond his control. In the midst of this collective loss we must, like Habakkuk, remember the faithful love of our Lord, who in all things remains the Rock, salvation, and strength of his people (Hab. 3:18–19; Ps. 40; Jhn. 10:18; Phil. 2:1–15).

About the Author:

Becky Kiern

Becky Kiern is a graduate of Covenant Theological Seminary who has served in staff and lay leadership roles in multiple churches. Currently living in Nashville, TN, she enjoys teaching the Bible at retreats and conferences, developing church leadership and writing Bible study curriculum. She is the author of Our Light and Life: Identity in the Claims of Christ. Her other works include contributions to Co-Laborers, Co-Heirs: A Family Conversation, Christ in the Time of Corona and Beneath the Cross of Jesus: Lenten Reflections. Becky has also been an adult cardiology RN for nearly 15 years. Above all her favorite roles are that of friend, sister, and auntie.

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