By Claire Swinarski
We’ve all dealt with disappointment in life, but COVID-19 has made many of these disappointments larger, brighter, and uglier.
Postponed weddings. Canceled parties. Called-off graduation ceremonies. Exhausting work hours. Anxiety for loved ones. Flaring health issues. Constant news updates. Lack of family support.
Some of our disappointments seem “small” in the face of a deadly virus. If we aren’t in a hospital bed or haven’t lost our job, it can be easy to push our disappointment to the side. This isn’t that big of a deal. This is nothing compared to what other people are dealing with. I should just suck it up—Christ carried a cross and I can handle this without shedding a tear.
But what does our faith actually say about our suffering? In 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, St. Paul writes that God is “the Father of compassion and God of all encouragement, who comforts us in our every affliction, so that we may be able to encourage those who are in any affliction with the encouragement with which we ourselves are encouraged by God.” Would the God who created you comfort you in all your troubles, or would He say to suck it up? Would He want you to then go comfort other people with the strength you’ve gotten from Him, or would He want them to just handle it all on their own?
When you’re dealing with disappointment, God cares. It doesn’t matter if it’s more or less than anyone else’s disappointment. It doesn’t matter if it’s here for a day or the rest of your life. Jesus wants to hear about your disappointments, He wants to sit with you in them, and He wants you to lean on Him. Faith is not a magic recipe—two cups of cheerfulness and a tablespoon of gratitude and then, voila, happy times. As Brené Brown said in a recent Facebook video, “I went back to church thinking that it would be like an epidural, that it would take the pain away. . . . But faith and church wasn’t an epidural for me at all; it was like a midwife. . . . I thought faith would say, ‘I’ll take away the pain and discomfort,’ but what it ended up saying is, ‘I’ll sit with you in it.’”
When I find myself overwhelmed with disappointment, especially during this time, I return again and again to the story of Lazarus and the shortest verse in the gospel: “Jesus wept.”
He wept when His friend died, even though He knew He could make him rise again. Jesus allowed Himself to feel real sorrow, real grief, and real disappointment. Jesus understood that the period of mourning is just as important as the period of joy afterwards: that before every Easter morning is a season of Lent.
This season, if you’re feeling particularly disappointed about something—and who isn’t—try not to “cheerleader” your way out of it. Instead of pasting on a smile, give yourself the space you need to sit in sorrow and weep with Jesus. Only once we acknowledge our grief, seemingly big or seemingly small, can we begin to transform disappointment into hope.
Claire Swinarski is the author of multiple books, including What Happens Next (coming 2020 from HarperCollins) and Girl, Arise: A Catholic Feminist’s Invitation to Live Boldly, Love Your Faith, and Change the World. She’s also the founder of the Catholic Feminist Podcast. She has degrees in journalism and political science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and her writing has been featured in The Washington Post, Seventeen, Milwaukee Magazine, and many other publications. She lives just outside of Milwaukee, WI with her husband and two kids.