September 2021: How are you?
What do workers gain from their toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God. Ecclesiastes 3:9-13
“How are you?”
How are you? It’s a difficult question to answer these days, living in Lebanon. Recently, I’ve settled on answering “yaani,” which translates to “I mean…,” a noncommittal answer that at least acknowledges the reality of the situation. It feels like the most honest answer I can give.
Living in Beirut today is overwhelming. After the explosion on August 4, 2020, the social, economic, and health crises with which Lebanese people were already grappling continued to get worse. In Fall 2020, the government implemented new lockdowns to control skyrocketing COVID-19 cases. Casualties caused by the explosion pushed already struggling hospitals past capacity. The Lebanese economy was in freefall, and there was no safety net to support families. Protests erupted across the country, and people made the difficult choice to move abroad in search of better jobs.
I have found that Beirut is filled with constant reminders of how precarious life is. It makes it hard to put down roots here. Even scheduling meetings or events feels foolish – how could we possibly know what the world will be like in a week or a month? And yet, much of the Forum for Development, Culture, and Dialogue (FDCD)’s work is about long-term community investment.
When I revisited Ecclesiastes 3: 9-13 recently, it felt like holy permission to let go. It was enough just to be present in the moment. There’s no use worrying about the future as only God knows what’s coming. This was an attitude I had picked up from my friends here, as well – a necessary coping strategy among uncertainty.
I have seen the promise in Ecclesiastes as a warning – we don’t know God’s plan, which means that something catastrophic might happen at any moment. But maybe that’s not the whole story. We don’t know God’s plan, which means something good might happen at any moment, even when the world seems to be crumbling around us. Trusting in God also means trusting that good things can happen.
Sometimes what helps is hoping and choosing to believe, if just for a moment, that the future will be better. And the amazing thing, as promised in Ecclesiastes, is that God gives us permission to do all of this – to despair and hope, to dance and pray, to be silly and serious. Our ability to be present for all of it is God’s gift to us.
Leda Zakarison serves with the Forum for Development, Culture, and Dialogue, Beirut, Lebanon. Her appointment is made possible by your gifts to Disciples Mission Fund, Our Church’s Wider Mission, and Week of Compassion and your special gifts.