I am bristling lately whenever I catch a whiff of someone claiming there is a silver lining to COVID-19.
There are reasons to be thankful in the midst of tragedy. People are writing there is less global pollution because of stay-at-home orders. Others see this as a chance to step back and reprioritize and learn new skills. Some are enjoying quality time with family and out in nature.
I get it— we have (and need) reasons to smile even now, and sometimes gratitude is a way to push back against the darkness. Even now, God continues to remind us that he is here and he cares. Many of us, up until now, have not had to learn how to walk with others through the valley of the shadow of death. So, we are all trying to help in the way that’s most natural to us as individuals– humor, advice-giving, social action, meaning-making.
Still in the tougher moments, I find myself chafing at attempts at cheerfulness that seem to miss the gravity of our situation. Instructions on how to make the most of time in quarantine read to me like marching orders given to someone who is bleeding out. Even stories of nurses and doctors, meant to inspire, begin to grieve instead of comfort me as I think of loved ones working the hospitals. Not one of the supposed silver linings can quell my rising anxiety and grief.
I don’t need platitudes that we will make it through stronger.
I don’t need more calls to action.
I definitely don’t need (and will defy) any hints that I should try to find the bright side.
Not as the virus has already claimed over 81,000 lives globally. Not as it ravages my city. Not as family members and friends are in danger as medical professionals. Not as people we know have died and are fighting for their lives.
This is no pretty, fluffy ball of cotton set against a picturesque sunset. This is a terror that overtakes the sky, swirling and threatening to touch down and rip buildings out from their foundations.
There is no silver lining here.
But the Church remembers Good Friday tomorrow, and I’m hopeful that’s where I’ll be given what I need.
I need to see Jesus’ tears, to know him as a man of sorrows, well acquainted with grief.
I need to hear the wailing women give me permission to lament. To feel in my gut that death devastates because it entered the world unnaturally through sin.
I need the torn temple curtain reminding me that God is now near. He sees, he knows, he cares, he acts.
I need to sit in the paradox of grief and gratitude, of it being “good” though it was the most horrendous event in human history.
I need to feel that God’s purposes are not shallow, not the stuff of memes and feeble attempts to lighten the mood. They are mysterious and weighty, good and wise, comprehensive and unsearchable.
I need to recall the one death that defanged death itself and brought the promise of life beyond the grave.
I need the cross because there was no silver lining to it. There was resurrection, and that’s a completely different story.