The eleventh reflection in a series, “Hope to See Us Through,” by the Rev. Terry Elsberry.
“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.’”—Jeremiah 29:11
The Lord has many ways of communicating with me. Sometimes with a thought, sometimes with an idea or with a word or with what I call “a Holy Ghost nudge.” It’s when I know that I know that He’s showing me something He wants me to see or be aware of.
A few days ago, he gave me a picture. I was thinking of the extent of the tragedy the world and our country is facing in lives lost, hearts broken, jobs lost, paychecks gone. I could go on. You know the list.
It is absolutely heart-breaking. Then–as we came to Memorial Day when this year we mourned both our valiant soldiers AND our fellow Americans whose lives are being lost to the virus–I had a picture of Abraham Lincoln.
When I lived in Alexandria, Virginia, and worked a block from the White House at “The Church of the Presidents,” I came to know well the heart of our nation’s capital.
Every morning as I drove to work, I passed the Jefferson Memorial on my left and crossed the mall. A quick glance showed me, on my right, the Washington Monument and the Capital and, to the left, the Lincoln Memorial. Of all the monuments and memorials of the Mall, the one dedicated to Abraham Lincoln featuring him seated in his chair at the top of the steps, has arrested me more than all the other imposing monuments.
One of our greatest leaders, Lincoln helped save the Union. His perseverance, wisdom and unwavering commitment to keeping the union intact—“one nation under God”–made him a logical, an ideal role model for future presidents.
I was musing about Lincoln and the time of national desperation he led this nation through, when suddenly I had this very clear picture: He has gotten up from his chair, where he has sat for all these many years and moved to the front of the steps.
No more is our Civil War president sitting in silent contemplation. In my picture Lincoln is kneeling, crouching, shoulders hunched in grief and tears wetting his cheeks. Abe Lincoln, beloved leader of times long gone, hero of so many of us in every generation since, in my mind’s eye is weeping for America today.
So do I weep. So must we all, as this most awful scourge continues to play absolute havoc with every aspect of American life.
But there’s another picture. It’s of Abe Lincoln after some time has passed, standing up, looking up the Mall toward our nation’s capital, and then sitting again in his accustomed seat.
What that reminds me of is the heartening words in Psalm 30, verse five: “Weeping may last the night, but joy comes in the morning.”
Another reminder. This awful time is not forever. We are Americans—a people of grit, gumption, resolve and resilience. And despite the pettiness, cruelty and untoward outbreaks of anger and hate that soil our national character, still the majority of us are good people who want the greatest good for the greatest number.
The day will come. The pandemic will be history. We will survive as a nation.
As historian Rutger Bergman writes in the current issue of Time Magazine: “I’ve studied how in the past two decades scientists from all over the world have switched from a cynical to a more hopeful view of humanity. Human beings, they say, have not evolved to fight and compete, but to make friends and work together. Our unique ability to cooperate may explain the success of our species.
“In a time of extraordinary challenges, when COVID-19 seems like just the prequel to the global climate crisis we need to assume the best of one another. As a historian, I can’t say I’m optimistic, but I AM HOPEFUL, BECAUSE HOPE IMPELS US TO ACT.”
And historian Bregman feels that hope and he hasn’t even mentioned the Lord. He hasn’t even touched on the fact that something else we know is also true.
Which is that the Spirit of God is love in action. Which is that “we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.” Which is that: “Weeping may last the night, but joy comes in the morning.”