By Lucy Hefford
Ever read the news or listened to a friend mourn the situation they find themselves in and think; ‘it just seems so hopeless’? I have – and some of the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic for the lives of children around the world can feel hopeless too.
Missing months of schooling, being forced into child-labour due to economic hardship, the increase in domestic violence between parents and all the fall out which that has for the mental wellbeing of a child.
There are certainly enough statistics and stories to make hopelessness seem a legitimate response.
Theologian Matthew Edmonds speaks of a need for Christians to “re-contextualise hopelessness”. Because hopelessness is not a spiritual reality for God’s people, yet longing certainly is.
What is longing? Longing is generally understood and experienced as a strong, persistent desire or craving, especially for something distant or precious to us.
The Bible is full of people who experienced deep longings. The Israelites longed for the promised land. Hannah longed for a child (1 Samuel). Jesus longed for God to take away the cup of suffering he was being asked to drink; ‘yet not my will but yours be done’ (Luke 2:42).
And yet rather than pitying these people who longed for that which seemed far off, scripture dignifies lives which are characterised by longing. Hebrews 11:16 says that ‘God is not ashamed to call his own those who are longing for a better country.’
The New Testament speaks of the universal human longing for redemption and adoption as we ‘groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies’ (Romans 8:23).
Children who long for a family, or to return to the land they came from, or for the chance to go back to school again with their friends, are in good company with all of God’s people – we’re a longing people.
I wonder if the challenge is, how do we long well? How do we wait well for that which we long for?
As Christians we have the Psalms, which Amos Yong calls “the most forceful passionate cries of the human heart for divine justice.” The Psalms put into words the many and various longings in the heart of King David (their author). In my experience, part of longing and waiting well is learning to articulate that which I long for and to speak it to God directly.
Fostering a healthy honest dialogue with God about that which we need and long for is encouraged in scripture; “pour out your heart like water before the presence of the Lord.” (Lamentations 2:19) What do you long for? Are you talking to God about it?
At Viva we long for children to be free to live lives where they are safe and can flourish in all aspects of their lives. May God hear the cries of our hearts as we long and wait and pray.
 Edmonds, A Theological Diagnosis, 14.
 Yong, The Bible, Disability, and the Church, 41.