What a strange way to spend a Lent— am I right? With our current situation around the world, it can be very hard to keep perspective. It can be difficult not to let fear overtake us. It can be difficult not to mock the fears of others and act like this is all some giant overreaction. This life-in-the-doorway thing— it isn’t so easy (see Leviticus 8).
Let’s not lose our perspective, though. We just observed Ash Wednesday. Every year—with ashes— we remind ourselves and one another that death awaits each of us. We wore ashes on our faces reminding us that we are mortal and this life will not last forever.
Ash Wednesday can seem like such a morbid Christian holy day. The praises to our King from last Palm Sunday anoint our heads as ashes this Ash Wednesday, reminding us that from dust we came and to dust we will return (see Ecclesiastes 3; see also Genesis 3). This seems like such a pessimistic way to live, and it would be if Ash Wedesday were the end of the story. It would be if death still held ultimate power over each of us, but the season of Lent doesn’t end in ashes— it begins in ashes. Our hope lies in something beyond the ashes— in pushing through the ashes.
We are not a people without hope! On Ash Wednesday, we are reminded of our own mortality, and in this current pandemic, we are reminded of human frailty. In the words of Beta from The Walking Dead, “You were dead when you came to us.” That is the truth each of us walks in. We are all under the curse of death. We will all feel death’s dark and dreaded sting. We’re all walking in ashes, and this year, that feels particularly more true. But we are not a people without hope.
This Lent, we’re walking with our ashes in a heavier way than ever before. Our mortality, our frailty, life’s uncertainty— it all weighs heavily on us this Lent. We’re all sacrificing much more than we anticipated. (I mean, have any of you given up toilet paper for Lent?) We’re all walking through a trying valley— whether we’re combating the fear that creeps up on us every time we hear of a new case of the virus (or another establishment closing because of it) or whether we’re combating our own cynicism. Christians know that death is coming for all of us. This world is not yet remade. This life is not yet glorified.
But we are not a people without hope. Easter is coming. Just like we held onto that hope of the shining star during Advent, we now hold onto the hope that morning is coming and the night will soon end. Death and darkness don’t get the final say. The ashes will be washed away in the light of the morning. Easter is coming. Our Savior faced death, just like you and I one day will. Our Savior died, just like you and I one day will. But death could not hold Him. Death does not win. Christ overcomes death, hell, and the grave. Christ raises us anew— into new life. So while we may mourn and even fear, we are not a people without hope.
As we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we have a Savior who walks with us (see Psalm 23). Do not fear this current pandemic or any evil. Jesus has already conquered death, and He walks with us. That doesn’t mean it won’t be a hard road we walk. That doesn’t mean this time isn’t dark. It just means that we walk in the knowledge that light is coming, help is near, and hope can still be found.
Jesus is not your anti-viral. The righteous and the unrighteous both face the consequences of living in a fallen world (see Romans 3). I can’t tell you not to worry about the virus. I can tell you that you can walk with Jesus even with the threat of the virus hanging over you. I can’t tell you that you won’t get sick— you might; I might. I can tell you that Jesus will be with you even in sickness and suffering. I can tell you He Himself suffered. I can tell you ashes aren’t the end of the story. Those of us who are found in Christ— we have hope that, though we will return to dust, the Lord who made us from the dust can (and will!) remake us in His image when He makes all things new (see Revelation 21). Even in human suffering, God’s mercy is with us. Even in the dark times, light still shines (see John 1:5).
“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every mornings; great is your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in Him.'” – Lamentations 3:22-24 (ESV)
Live as a people with hope! Show mercy. Show understanding. Wash your hands. Easter is coming.