By now, surely we have learned not to ask, “how much worse can it get?”   With every news-cycle, the realm of plausible catastrophes expands.   While not to the level of the Biblical plagues, we can well imagine how the people of Ramses’ Egypt felt.   Just when you think it can’t get any worse, it does.    But as bad as the circumstances of this year have been, even worse are the downstream consequences.    Mental, emotional, and spiritual crises have produced greater impact than the events that triggered them.

A recent article in JAMA, makes some pretty startling observations.

Since February 2020, the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has led to at least 200 000 deaths in the US and 1 million deaths worldwide. These numbers probably underestimate COVID-19 deaths by 50%, with excess cardiovascular, metabolic, and dementia-related deaths likely misclassified COVID-19 deaths.

This devastating pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of daily life. While nations struggle to manage the initial waves of the death and disruption associated with the pandemic, accumulating evidence indicates another “second wave” is building: rising rates of mental health and substance use disorders.

This magnitude of death over a short period of time is an international tragedy on a historic scale. Focusing on the US, the number of deaths currently attributable to COVID-19 is nearly 4 times the number killed during the Vietnam War. This interpersonal loss at a massive scale is compounded by societal disruption. The necessary social distancing and quarantine measures implemented as mitigation strategies have significantly amplified emotional turmoil by substantially changing the social fabric by which individuals, families, communities, and nations cope with tragedy. The effect is multidimensional disruption of employment, finances, education, health care, food security, transportation, recreation, cultural and religious practices, and the ability of personal support networks and communities to come together and grieve.

A June 2020 survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of 5412 US adults found that 40.9% of respondents reported “at least one adverse mental or behavioral health condition,” including depression, anxiety, posttraumatic stress, and substance abuse, with rates that were 3 to 4 times the rates 1 year earlier.2 Remarkably, 10.7% of respondents reported seriously considering suicide in the last 30 days.2 The sudden interpersonal loss associated with COVID-19, along with severe social disruption, can easily overwhelm the ways individuals and families cope with bereavement.

The events of 2020 have been bad.   And, unfortunately, for many, things may get worse.   As Christians, how do we respond when things go from bad to worse?   We profess that our faith gives us strength “many trials of various kinds.”  We are instructed to “count it all joy.”   We declare that we can endure “all things through Christ who strengthens us.”   We have an expectation that things will work out because, “if God is for us, who can be against us.”  Yet, when things go from bad to worse, how do those scripture truths hold up as threads in the fabric of our lives.

Jeremiah was faithful to his calling.   But for him, both personally and professionally, things went from bad to worse.  Speaking truth into the lives of hardened people is exhausting.    Scripture gives us a poignant view into both his sorrowful words and his sorrowful soul.   Jeremiah’s story is one of disappointments.   Four decades of preaching fell on deaf ears.  No one listened.  No one responded.  He was hunted by the authorities and hated by his own friends and family.   He was not allowed to marry and lived a life of solitude and sorrow.   He had no one to support him in his own grief over the judgment coming upon his beloved people.   His only refuge was the Lord, but even the Lord seemed sometimes deaf to his prayers, unconcerned about his persecution, and unappreciative of his ministry.  

Even as the threatened judgement of God unfolded with Nebuchadnezzar at the gates of Jerusalem, there is no vindication, no respect, and no response for Jeremiah.    His situation goes from bad to worse.  Accused of treason, imprisoned in a dungeon, then thrown into a muddy pit, he is abandoned to die a painful and lonely death.   But the Lord had not forgotten Jeremiah.   And in this section of Jeremiah, so characterized by contrasts, we see the difference that makes.   Things have gone from bad to worse, both for Jeremiah and for King Zedekiah.  But the faith of the prophet and the faithlessness of the King marks a dramatic difference.

How do you respond when things go from bad to worse?   Join us this Lord’s Day as we examine Jeremiah 37-38 and consider our response and God’s faithfulness when live goes from bad to worse.  We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm in The Commons at St. Andrews Anglican Church at 8300 Kanis Rd in Little Rock for worship.  Get directions here or contact us for more info.    You can also join us on Facebook Live @RiverCityARP.