So here we are again. Once more, we find ourselves in lockdown – shops, restaurants and pubs are shut, people are working from home, travel is restricted. Once again, people find themselves in isolation. Many have lost their jobs, or are fearful of the future.
So much is by now familiar, and, to a large extent, we know what to expect. We have been through it before. And if we’ve learned anything at all, we know what helps us to get through these times – things like exercise and healthy eating, keeping in touch with people, learning new skills. Of course, there are differences, too. This time, it’s winter. It’s dark and cold, and we may be less inclined to go out for our daily exercise. People speak of feeling weary. But in the midst of it all – there is hope as vaccines have been developed.
At the time of the first lockdown, I wrote a blog which drew on the Biblical book of Habakkuk. We saw that after Habakkuk cried out to God, he realised that God was asking him to wait and to listen. So Habakkuk waited. And as he did so, he learned a great deal. He learned to look around and see God working in ways he did not expect. He learned to recognise greed, injustice, cruelty and exploitation for what they are, and to speak out against these things. And in the midst of it all he learned something of the glory and might of God, and that God’s justice would prevail.
At the end of the book, no great happy ending is announced. No miracle is promised. But Habakkuk has learned so much that he can say with confidence that he can hold on to hope. Since his initial crying out to God, he himself has been transformed, and he can declare hope even in the midst of continuing crisis.
What Habakkuk learns, I suggest, is that when God asks us to wait – he does so for a purpose. In these times he teaches us and transforms us; we learn to see him at work in ways that we do not expect. We learn to see the world as he sees it, and to see how we can best serve him. In times of trouble, if we are prepared to allow God to do so, he will change us and help us to grow. It is my prayer that in this difficult time of lockdown we will learn more of God and his ways, and, like Habakkuk, be able to say,
“Though the fig tree does not blossom,
And no fruit is on the vines;
Though the produce of the olive fails
And the fields yield no food;
Though the flock is cut off from the fold
And there is no herd in the stalls,
Yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will exult in in the God of my salvation.”