With an extended lockdown comes a sapping of momentum that can easily discourage us. Leaders are constantly seeking to build hope and therefore to cast a compelling vision for the future. When it feels that such hope is under threat our need for focus becomes even more important. The Biblical book of Lamentations offers some timeless wisdom that is very relevant to understanding the space in which we find ourselves.
The book has an important literary feature that draws our attention to its middle. Chapters 1, 2, 4 and 5 all contain twenty-two verses that start with the successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet. It shows that, just as Jesus is the ‘alpha and omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end’ in Revelation 22:13, God has everything covered here. The pattern is, in fact, tripled in the sixty-six verses of chapter 3 which become the book’s central focus. They contain the famous words that partly inspired the hymn, Great is Thy Faithfulness, and further emphasise the unfailing love and deliverance of God amidst trouble.
Here’s why this remains important today.
1. We need to be able to grieve our past in order to seize our future
Jeremiah writes in a time of turmoil, grieving the destruction of Jerusalem while still looking forward, prophetically, to its restoration. However, it can be difficult to move forward with assurance when what we have known and cherished still seems to draw us back.
Grieving the past helps us create the stronger sense that where we need to go next is not about simply following after another shiny new ideal. Leading healthy change creates urgent need to break the shackles of the past, but it empathises with the ‘now’ of emotion without being beholden to it.
Jeremiah gives a heartfelt description of the anguish he faces, showing in Lamentations 3:19-20 that he is in touch with his affliction and bitterness, not denying he is “downcast.” Helping others to give voice to the very real sense of loss and discouragement is vital to patiently journeying through the discovery of the life’s next chapter, one that good leaders will often see well before others are ready to.
Perhaps the most recent lockdown measures in Victoria are reminding us that we haven’t yet taken the time to grieve, to assess, or even to be real with ourselves and each other before considering our own next steps.
2. We can look to our future with confidence when God is in charge of our present
The window of what seemed to be our emerging post-COVID ‘normal’ this year saw some of us complacently returning to old and familiar patterns and structures. But when faith in God’s guidance in the present gives way to familiarity with God’s guidance in times past, then we can quickly succumb to fear of the future.
Lamentations 3:21-22 affirms that we can indeed have hope and that we are indeed not consumed. Why? Because of God’s great love for us. That remains a ‘today truth’ no matter what we might feel to the contrary.
We can rise above any of our own unhealthy emotions to have confidence today and to then help lead the emotions of others to a healthy space that enables reflection and recalibration. However, we first need the reassurance that ‘it is well with our soul,’ that God is for us and not against us, and that he is still speaking afresh within a dynamic relationship that is as alive as ever.
3. Our faith-filled stance is the substance of the hope we have for that future
Hebrews 11:1 poignantly reminds us that faith is the substance of our hope and verse 6 goes on to advise that without faith we cannot please God. If faith comes from revelation of God’s word to us, then it is also the source of the brightly-burning vision that never dims.
Has God spoken about our future? Do we still believe in the end goals we have passionately served?
People look to leaders to inspire the confidence that all is well and the clarity concerning the next steps to be taken.
Lamentations 3:25-26 draws us to hope in God and to quietly seek his salvation. Hope is not about journeying through the wait-and-see of today. Instead, we build hope for tomorrow when vision is unpacked to stimulate an ‘I-can-do-that’ response. We need to help others capture revelation moments, not fingers-crossed ones.
How do we respond, then, if people seem to have failed to jump on board with new changes so far this year? How do we react to a prolonged lockdown that steals the joy of today?
Look to tomorrow, and look with confidence, the confidence that God has spoken and that we have heard him.
So, what are you hearing then? Is your tomorrow already filled with the genuine excitement and deep conviction which comes from knowing that what you already see inspires your confidence that your best days are still ahead?!