NBC News ran a piece about the street where our church building sits, here’s the headline “On Tennyson Street in Denver, mom-and-pop shops are dying amid COVID-19.” They ran this piece nationally not because Tennyson street is unique, but because it isn’t. As a new church at the end of the street, I’m not sure what we can offer in a situation like this.
I’m reminded of my late teens watching my parents struggle through the recession and ultimately lose their businesses. It is a similar outside-looking-in type of feeling to read this article. I coped then, with an “it didn’t really matter anyway” type of attitude. An ecclesiastical “everything is meaningless so did you really lose anything?” Sometimes with a Christian spin of, “it only hurts because you idolized it.” Staring in at a similar story I’d like to offer a bit more, I think even our church can offer a bit more.
First, we can bear witness to the loss. Proverbs 13:12 says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.” What is a small business but hope? It’s closure certainly creates a sickness. It’s a heartbreaking thing to see the flourishing of life move out of a space and leave behind emptiness. A reverse picture of the first 6 days. It is no flaw in your heart that this deferred hope makes you sick, that in fact is your heart working properly.
Second, we can recognize the danger of the world around us. Small businesses, your family, our health and plans hang by a thread. I took my car to a mechanic the other day who said, “it is amazing how much has to go right for a car to drive.” How much more for our bodies, relationships, businesses? It is a dangerous world out there. It is not just that sin has caused the world around us to decay, but that we ourselves decay with it (Rom 8:19-23). It is not just that systems of injustice conspire against flourishing, but that we ourselves are unjust. Don’t merely learn your lesson to avoid such a pitfall next time. The lesson is only that the world is so dangerous that we must be saved if we are to make it.
Third, we can show that hope deferred does not have to mean hopelessness. Hopelessness might seem like the appropriate response to my first and second points. “The hurt is real and there is no real escaping it.” That’s almost a working definition of hopeless. But us Christians have another arrow in our quiver, resurrection. For the Christian, death is not the end of the story. Christ died and in his death he brought new life. The empty business might do the same. Of course that is hard to see from here, and we may not be able to piece together all the connections. The brother-in-law who loaned the start-up capital might still look at you as a failure. But because of the resurrection, we know even in death we are connected to a story of meaning that cannot be defeated. This is real hope. One that looks at the reality of pain, understands its breadth, and hopes anyway.
For all of those experiencing losses throughout this season. We can say yes you are crushed, but in Christ you’re not destroyed.