God is good and our refuge in times of trouble. This reality is perfectly described by the prophet Nahum in this way: “The Lord is good, A stronghold in the day of trouble, And He knows those who take refuge in Him” (1: 7). These words could represent an apparently contradictory scenario of the human experience and one we all face today due to the global pandemic caused by COVID-19. On the one hand, the affirmation of the goodness of God represents a basic foundation of biblical theology. God is good at all times and always seeks the best for us. For this reason, despite the terrible consequences of sin that broke all our relationships, God sent his son to die in our place to give us eternal life and restore in Jesus all our relationships broken by sin. The essence of the gospel is good news for everyone because it emanates from a good God. Furthermore, God is close and personal and in Him we find rest and protection in the midst of life’s difficulties. Not only is God generally good, but He is our refuge in a personal way.
However, on the other hand, the affirmation of God’s protection recognizes that believers, like all human beings, face trials and difficulties. Right now, the entire planet is suffering the devastating consequences of a virus that continues to affect all human beings regardless of gender, culture, nationality or religion. It is refreshing to know that God cares for us, but at the same time it is frustrating to know that afflictions are part of our existence. At times it would seem that our theology (God is good and our refuge) contradicts our experience of anguish, fear and uncertainty.
After several weeks of confinement, I’ve noticed a tendency to desperately search for easy answers to the tough questions we’ve all been asking ourselves lately. At the beginning of the restrictions due to the pandemic and when Westerners began to be really affected by COVID-19, it was common to hear messages of hope and trust in God. When the discomfort was minimal, the words of encouragement easily came out of our mouths. Now that several weeks of restrictions have passed and we have been assimilating that the effects of COVID-19 have been accumulating and will continue for a long time, the optimistic messages have diminished and the messages that attempt to minimize the situation or try to explain the pandemic through different and simplistic “conspiracy theories” have increased.
The reality is that we are all facing a global pandemic that at the present time we can only mitigate until we find a medicine to control it and a vaccine to prevent it. This situation is difficult to assimilate since we all want it to end as soon as possible. Furthermore, the consequences of the pandemic go far beyond the regrettable deaths of thousands of people and the broken health of many more who have been infected by this powerful virus. All of us in one way or another have lost many things and our lives have been turned upside down. Obviously, some have suffered more than others and the severity of the pandemic has been felt in different ways, but we have all lost something. These losses cause emotional instability that is often difficult to express and reconcile. We all ask ourselves questions, suffer pain for our losses and ask ourselves questions about our reality and our faith.
Lament Psalms give us a model to freely express our emotions and reaffirm our faith. God knows our circumstances and is never surprised by our questions. Believers often hesitate to voice our doubts for fear of being judged as unbelievers or perceived as people of little faith. However, God not only created us with emotions, but gives us the freedom to express them openly in his presence. Psalms are poetry and emotions are an essential aspect of poetry, so within this collection God included many Psalms that reflect hopelessness, anguish, frustration, uncertainty, fear and all these emotions so common to human experience.
Lament Psalms begin with a call for trust and faith in God expressed in a request for help. The central part of these Psalms is precisely an emotional meltdown due to the crisis facing the psalmist and in many cases the people of God in general. Lament Psalms always end with a petition and a declaration of faith and trust in God. This model helps us as believers to face the sad situation that we are currently suffering. Our faith in God does not exempt us from difficulties and we need to recognize our losses and accept the mourning process that will accompany us for a long time. In the midst of our problems God is our refuge and always sustains us and will deliver us from them. This is why we can together exclaim together with Asaph at the end of one of his mourning psalms: “O Lord God of hosts, restore us;
Cause Your face to shine upon us, and we will be saved” (Psalm 80:19) We can trust in the God who cares for us and who is not frightened by our doubts!