For the first time in almost a year I feel hopeful.
We are not out of this Covid crisis yet, but progress is being made. More and more people will get vaccinated in the coming months, including our school employees and other essential workers who need it desperately. With each vaccination, we are one step closer to a place where the threat of sickness and death is not constantly lurking over us at every turn. While we may not ever be totally rid of Covid, I’m daring to be optimistic.
But hope can be tricky.
Emily Dickinson described it as “the thing with feathers, that perches in the soul.” Literature experts may interpret this differently, but I take her words to mean that hope can flitter in and sit with us for a bit like the bluebirds outside my window and then be gone in an instant.
As soon as what we hope for comes to pass, we are anticipating the next thing. We hope to find our life’s partner, then we hope for healthy children, then to pay the bills, for the new job, for retirement, for comfort in our old age. During hard days, the object of our hope always seems just out of reach, like the birds flitting around in the trees.
This verse from the prophet Jeremiah comes to mind when I find myself feeling unmoored and searching for hope:
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.“Jeremiah 29:11
This ancient promise that God plans to give me hope and a future carries greater weight when I read it in view of what was going on in the Biblical narrative. Jeremiah is counseling the people of Judah at a time when their country is being taken over by the Babylonian army. If hope is a thing with feathers, it appears to have flown out the window.
The prophet Hananiah tells the soon-to-be conquered people that everything will be okay, but Jeremiah intervenes and says that it’s not going to be better for another seventy years. They should settle in, build their houses and plant their gardens, marry and have children, and pray for the peace and prosperity of their captors.
What if God told us not to worry, that Covid will be around for the next seventy years, but that then he will deliver us from it? That would be little consolation for most of us since we know we will not be around by that time. But it might give us hope for our children and grandchildren, for the future generations. And that might get us through today.
God’s hope is long term. Like Emily Dickinson’s hope that “sings the tune without the words, and never stops at all,” I need the day-to-day hope of a vaccine and an end to Covid as we now know it. But I also need the hope that God is by my side and will take care of me and those I love, no matter what storms come our way.