These are such strange and difficult times we are living in right now. Life has always been hard, but these days it seems especially so. Each day brings its own share of sorrows, piling them up on top of us, one after the other. If we don’t die from COVID-19, or from cancer, or from nefarious vigilantes taking (in)justice into their own hands, or from silent despair that becomes too much to bear, then the claustrophobia induced by each mounting sorrow will soon suffocate us. The current global crisis has us all in the same uncertain, shaky, raggedy boat trying to stay afloat in the midst of this torrential storm that doesn’t show any signs of calming. This decrepit structure is our only hope right now, and each and every tragedy we hear about in the news is a splinter from that old boat jabbing us right where it hurts most.
Our hands are full, pierced with pieces of fractured hope that reach right to our hearts.
What makes this storm so ironic, though, is that literally everyone is experiencing it. Literally everyone. We are all dying. This is a global, collective death that we are all experiencing. With most communal events, whether it be a celebration or a tragedy, just the fact that an experience has been shared creates a thick bond between those who share it. The entire country rallied together after the terrorist attacks of 9/11 because we were all impacted by that event. And although I wasn’t exactly old enough to remember the social fallout from the event, I’ve read that similar experiences happened after the Columbine shootings. The same for the Challenger explosion, the assassination of JFK, and Pearl Harbor. All the troops in those trenches in Bastogne, no matter where the years have taken them, share a bond that cannot be broken.
The entire world is walking through a shared experience of suffering. This far into the COVID-19 crisis we’re all beginning to feel the emotional, psychological, mental, social, economic, and spiritual effects of isolation and quarantine and loneliness. Add to that all of the other bad news that seems to hit headlines every day and it’s not too harsh to say that the whole world seems to be…well, dying.
But are we developing the camaraderie that comes from shared experiences of suffering? Or are we allowing this situation to separate us, pitting us one against another? There are many arguments about what should happen and when, there is a lot of distrust and apprehensiveness, and there are mixed opinions about the current state of affairs all across the board. From my perspective, it seems that this crisis is leading us toward further polarization rather than cohesion. I don’t know why that is the case, but I do know that shouldn’t be the case for us. Not for the church.
Our hands are all splintered and scarred from holding so tightly to this rotten boat, but don’t you see that it’s the splintered hands that unites us? Not everyone knows what it’s like to be homeless, or destitute, or abused, or swindled, but we all know the pain that the current storms of this moment have pierced us with. We can feel it in our hands, but we bear it in our hearts. And it’s this shared experience that will allow us all to sympathize with and care for one another in a way the whole world needs to see right now.
There is Another whose scarred and pierced hands sympathize with yours. Jesus of Nazareth was a Man who faced a crucible far greater than the threat of COVID-19 (Isaiah 53:4-6), a Man who experienced an isolation on the cross far more severe than anything we’re going through (Matthew 27:46), and He was a Man whose hands bear eternal scars from the splintered wood He carried (John 20:27). If we find it hard to identify and sympathize with one another, then we must look to and identify with Him. Our common, shared suffering is that we have all been crucified along with Christ (Galatians 2:20). And sharing in that suffering creates a bond unlike any catastrophic event this world can throw at us, one that will continue even after this world is done having its way with us (Romans 8:17; Philippians 3:10; 1 Peter 4:13).
Let’s lock our bruised arms, clasp our tattered hands, and band together under this banner: that Jesus Christ is our King who has prepared a Kingdom for us. And that Kingdom, and its citizens, will not be shaken by any storm (Hebrews 12:28).