Local Commentary

Staying Hopeful During Trying Times in the New Year

By The Rev. Dr. M. Davies Kirkland

“Hold On to hope!”

Face it, as we enter a new year, 2022, our lives still feel out of control. In the Epistle to the Romans, the Apostle Paul is helping early Christians deal with challenges beyond their control: getting along with one another, sinfulness and forgiveness, political and economic issues. Sound familiar? He offers them and us a message of hope.

“…suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us because God’s love has been poured into our hearts…” Romans 5:3-5.

Paul offers four words to guide us during these challenging times: suffering, endurance, character, and hope.

Suffering. Suffering is simply part of the human condition. We today, living in the Falls Church community are suffering from a pandemic of Covid-19 that has changed our lives in many ways. Look at what we have been dealing with: masks, vaccines, hospitalizations and deaths, testing. Add to this, we have been facing inflation and supply chain problems; a divided government unable to get things done; and– just in time for the holiday season- nightmare travel stories. We are exhausted. Our patience has run out.

Endurance. Suffering leads to endurance. Throughout this pandemic, I have been asked and have heard others asking the same question, “How are you holding up?” This speaks to our endurance. Endurance is how we will continue to carry on despite the obstacles and hardships of life. Endurance is the key to our lives today. When our lives are filled with challenges, disappointments, and suffering, we look not only to ourselves, but to others. Endurance sustains us in these turbulent times.

Character. Endurance leads to character. How are we going to act in our endurance? Integrity. Character is how we live our lives. Character is how people see us for who we are through our words and actions towards others. Some examples of character are kindness, self-control, goodness, peace, love, and faithfulness.

Hope. Character leads to hope. Hope is something to look forward to. Hope is something to believe in. Hope is an expectation. We are going to get through this storm. We believe that God’s love is pouring into our lives, seeing us through these difficult times.

As a United Methodist pastor in the City of Falls Church, I have learned a lesson related to COVID-19 using these four words: suffering, endurance, character and hope.

The COVID pandemic came upon us at Dulin Church in March 2020. Like many churches, we had to close our doors. Some churches began to record worship services while others began livestreaming. I was in a quandary over what to do. I was stuck. I prayed asking God for help discerning how to make this transition.

One of our youth, Luke Batarseh, a 10th grader, contacted me and said, “Pastor Dave, I can record the worship services, edit them, and then place them on the church website.” What a godsend. As we have moved to livestreaming, staff and Dulin disciples led in purchasing equipment, helping design a multi-media booth, and telling me each week, “It’s going to be alright Pastor Dave!” Each week I would simply say, “Just tell me what to do.” I was given hope my ministry would continue, though in a totally different way.

“Tell me what to do!” That is my point. Usually, in our typical “DMV” way, we think we have all the tools ourselves to take care of families, perform high expectation jobs, and excel at everything else.

We now are in a “new-normal”, as they say. I think the new normal is believing that we don’t have to do everything by ourselves. It’s ok to ask for help. We reach out to one another.

How do we do this?

We turn to our neighbor we hardly know to share stories of present-day challenges.

Setting aside any differences, we turn to family members for guidance and comfort.

We treat one another with new-found respect.

We offer kind words backed up by thoughtful actions.

We give thanks to those in public service who work to ensure our community’s health and safety.

We will get though these challenges…but only if we face them together. As we practice the “new normal”, let us practice forgiveness rather than punishment- working for the common good rather than our own self interests.

So, hold on to hope in 2022. Hold on to hope when we feel our lives have been shattered. Hold on to hope when we are ready to give up! Don’t let go!

God is not going to give up on us! Hold on to hope!