Today, the 23rd of March 2021, marks the first year anniversary of the UK’s lockdown. It’s been a year that has demanded an awful lot of us, and has been an era-defining experience. Journalists and historians are already using phrases like: ‘the covid generation’ ‘the class of 2020’, and more.
There has been much to respond to, much to think through, much to adapt to.
There has been much to learn, but there’s also been much to mourn.
The Marie Curie foundation are inviting us to mark this today as a Day of National Reflection, with a minutes silence at 12 noon, and by lighting a candle at 8pm. A time set aside to remember and honour those who have died from coronavirus, and their loved ones. And also those who have died during this pandemic, and the families whose grief has been made all the more difficult by covid-restrictions.
Loving a loved one is never easy, but losing a loved one while isolated from both being to support them, and being supported by others in the usual ways, must be intensely difficult.
There have been times when some of us have been to funerals where only a handful of people could be in attendance; and even then sat distanced from each other, and having to leave swiftly afterwards. On other occasions, even when more could physically gather for the service, there is the pain of not being able to hold onto one another in our pain.
Some of these losses came with the long, slow, painful realisation of what was happening. Others were more rapid. For some of us the pain is still very real and raw. For others we are left feeling cold and numb.
Rather cruelly, life has a way of just carrying on, and we’ve had to learn to carry on too; but although the world has moved on, the world will be never be the same place again without the people we have lost.
It’s been my experience that often when someone dies, the grief can often be accompanied the strange, unwanted companion: guilt. Rather than remember all the time spent with our loved ones, we can often find our minds fixating on the question: “Was I there for them enough?” And on top of the pain that they are no longer with us, we lay another burden of wishing we had “done more” for that person. It feels so terrible. It feels so tragic.
And it’s only natural, it is the longing of love for that person. After 9/11, the Queen made a simple comment that “grief is the price we pay for love.” And I think that’s true.
Depending on the circumstances you personally may not have felt that, and that’s ok. The journey of grief is one we each carve out quite uniquely, so there is no “right way” to feel. But perhaps, for some of us during these covid-times, that experience of guilt has been amplified by the ever-changing restrictions we have had to adapt to.
Grace will lead me home.
Our perspective though at these times, is inevitably filtered through our loss. It may well be that there was nothing more that you could have done or said, or that anyone else would be able to either in your circumstances.
But if there are real regrets that we still carry, there is a source of healing available for us: grace. Invite God’s grace into your grief. Maybe at times, we need to seek God’s grace to be able to forgive ourselves. To release ourselves from the regrets of things that we now cannot change, and embrace the painful lessons our mistakes have taught us.
The Bible tells us that Jesus, through this sacrificial death, has paid the price for every single mistake we’ve ever made. Every single regret can be fully redeemed at the cross if it first transforms itself in repentance. As John writes in his letter:
But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin.
1 JOHN 1.7
Rest in His Presence.
Because of the cross, forgiveness is just one prayer away. But there are moments, when it’s harder to feel forgiven than it is to be forgiven. The journey between receiving God’s forgiveness and believing God’s forgiveness can sometimes seem so far apart it’s hard to see.
Knowing this, John goes to say:
This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in His presence: If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and He knows everything.
1 JOHN 3.19-20
God is greater than our guilt, and His truth is stronger than our feelings. Even if our hearts condemn us – we can still rest in His Presence if we have simply invited His grace to cover our guilt. Just receive this afresh today: Because of Jesus, you… you are utterly forgiven and set free from blame by God. Let that wash over you today.
Years ago we used to sing this praise song by Dave Bilbrough called: Be Free in the Love of God:
Be free in the Love of God
Let His Spirit flow within you.
Be free in the love of God,
Let it fill your soul…
Be free in the love of God,
He has made us whole.
That’s my prayer for all of us, especially on this special day of remembering – that God’s grace may help us to separate our guilt from our grief, and that we might be free in love of God, knowing the wholeness that His Spirit longs to bring each one of us.
Guilt can only keep you locked down, but grace will lift you.
Guilt will keep you distanced from others and God, but grace will draw you closer.
Guilt will have you hiding behind a mask, but grace will set you free.
Finally, if you struggling today, please don’t stand alone – one of the reasons guilt is an unwanted guest is that it keeps hogging all the space and constantly taking over the conversation. Talk to others today, share your pain as you share theirs. Remember together, cry together, laugh together, sit in silence together, share the grace together, and walk in fellowship… together.
I’m praying for you all.
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