This COVID-19 pandemic season has produced in us many different emotions and feelings, particularly during our prolonged lockdowns and in our mandated social distancing. These emotions and feelings have included anxiety, sadness, worry, apprehension, and depression. In addition to all of these feelings and emotions, I would add ‘disappointment’ to the list, for it is a word that does capture some of what I have been feeling for most of 2020. I am disappointed that our planned pilgrimage to the Holy Land this year had to be postponed due to the border closures; I am disappointed that I have not been able to gather regularly with my fellow Christians for Sunday sacramental worship; I am disappointed not to be teaching my students in a face-to-face environment. For my wife Cindy and me, we were profoundly disappointed not to be in attendance at our daughter’s wedding in the United States several weeks ago due to our travel restrictions here in Australia.
Now, ‘disappointment’ is one of those adjectives that is often used by us in an understated manner to hide our deeper emotions and feelings. It often masks what is actually being felt, those more intensely felt emotions of sadness, depression, disillusionment, and frustration. But still, it is a word that is on our list of adjectives indicative of this pandemic season.
St Paul writes in his letter to the Romans that ‘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 through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us’ (Romans 5:3b-5 [NRSV]). For St Paul, there are many things that might create disappointment, but hope – particularly hope produced in the midst of suffering – does not disappoint. Hope is the answer to disappointment.
During this ongoing pandemic season, it is worth taking stock of the things that give us hope, particularly as we try to navigate through the negative emotion of disappointment. We are hopeful for an effective and safe vaccine that will be justly administered around the world; we are hopeful for a return to dining out, to gathering in person for worship in church, to face-to-face learning, to being reunited with family and friends; we are hopeful that this pandemic is producing in us, in the words of St Paul, endurance and character.
Take stock in what gives you hope, for hope does not disappoint.
Reverend Canon Associate Professor Robert (‘Bob’) Derrenbacker is the Dean and Principal of Trinity College Theological School. He grew up in upstate New York State in the USA. He attended Wheaton College where he earned a BA in Theology and Biblical Studies. He then received his Masters Degree from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Massachusetts, USA. He, and his wife Cindy, then immigrated to Toronto, Canada where Bob earned a PhD in New Testament at the University of Toronto. It was there in the Anglican Diocese of Toronto where Bob was ordained Deacon in 2001, then Priest in 2002.