By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down and wept, when we remembered Zion. How can we sing the lords song in a foreign land? Psalm 137:1, 4.
COVID has created a lot of disruption and aversity in our lives. We are in a season of dissatisfaction and distraction and there is no real end in sight. If you are like me you are tired. Tired of COVID. Tired of face masks. Tired of restrictions. Tired of conflict. Tired of politics. Tired of social distancing. Just plain tired of it all. On top of being tired, I am grieving the loss of all the things COVID protocol has taken from us. COVID isn’t going away and we can’t get away from it. In a very real way, we are captive to it.
I doubt any of us were prepared for just how unrelenting this season would actually be. Most of us have sought distractions to take our minds off it. Healthy distraction can be a good thing. It provides some relief from adversity, especially adversity over which we have no control. Too much distraction or unhealthy distraction however, can negatively effect motivation and mood. Distraction may provide temporary relief, but it is like candy. It only satisfies while we’re consuming it and too much of it … not good!
In 605 B.C. Babylon conquered the Nation of Judah. This began a 70 year long season of adversity for the people of God. Jerusalem and the temple were sacked and destroyed. The Israelites were killed or carted off to captivity in Babylon. They lost their homes, possessions, loved ones and their freedom. It was devastating. (This gave me a bit of perspective on the season we are going though. It may be long but at least its not 70 years!)
Psalm 137 was written during the Babylonian captivity. It is the poignant outcry of people trying to deal with adversity in captivity. God’s people cried out “how shall we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?” In essence what they were asking is, how do we find satisfaction in long term adversity? How do we find joy and meaning in prolonged captivity? How do we find fulfillment when we have little to no control over our situation or our lives? They were asking the same questions we are asking today.
I found my answer to this question in the lives of Daniel and his friends; Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
In the beginning of their captivity, they had virtually no control over their lives. Every aspect, from their education, to jobs, to how and who they would worship, was dictated by their captors. Even things as basic as what they ate, were decided for them. Yet, to a man, they determined that they would not defile themselves even if it cost them their lives.
Instead of just going along to get along or being ground down by the realities of their captivity, they choose to cast their lot with God. They chose to trust in, lean on and be obedient to God in all things, regardless of their situation. They sought His guidance and listened to His voice. They followed His plan and relied on His protection. In their 70 years of captivity God protected, prospered and raised them to positions of power and influence. By seeking God and allowing Him to reign in their lives, they were able to thrive in the adversity of foreign captivity. Their faithfulness even laid the foundation for the eventual return to Jerusalem.
In this season, we have the SAME OPPORTUNITY. When we follow their example, prolonged adversity gives us a unique opportunity. We get to trust in , lean on and be obedient to God in ways that would not be possible under any other circumstances. It gives us the opportunity to see God work powerfully on our behalf. When we choose to throw our lot in with God, prolonged adversity becomes an opportunity to grow! To grow closer to God. To grow stronger and more resilient. To gain experience and wisdom. To grow more Christlike.
As we continue through this long season of adversity, let’s follow the example of Daniel and his fellow captives. Let’s trust in God’s ability to bring us through whatever comes. No matter how long it lasts, GOD WILL bring us to the other side. Lean on Him for strength and rest and He will enable us to soar like Eagles. Be obedient to Him and to His word and He will bring blessing in the midst of our captivity.
Take comfort in the promise of Rom. 5:3-5. “ Exult in our sufferings and rejoice in our hardship, knowing that hardship produces patient endurance and endurance, proven character and spiritual maturity: and proven character produces hope and confident assurance. Such hope NEVER DISAPOINTS.”
Let this season of adversity be one in which we allow God to do His transformative work in us. Draw close to Him and take comfort in His steadfast love and care. Then we will know how to sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land. Who knows, we too may be laying a foundation of hope and blessing beyond imagining!
Recommended reading Psalm 137, Dan. Chapt. 1, 3:8-28, 6:18-28