When I first read today’s texts, all I could think was:
What I see around me right now are people still in need of deliverance. Their stories, sorrows, and longings weigh so heavily on my heart.
With the cries of those who long for deliverance in my ears, how on earth can I dwell in the celebration of rescue in Psalm 34? Or in the promise of restoration with which Amos ends his prophecy? Or Paul’s steadfast confidence in his letter to the Philippians?
What do we do with texts of joy in times when our spirits need lament? Do we ignore them?
Of course not.
We are called to a daily renewal of faithfulness and persistence in our relationship with God and God’s Word. Our emotions are an important part of that relationship. However, the relationship should not be dependent on them. We respond to God’s persistence and faithfulness towards us, not out of emotional whim, but by being faithful ourselves. So, we continue to engage with all parts of God’s word.
Still, neither are we meant to ignore our emotions. Emotions, frustrating as they may be at times, are a gift. They clue us in to what we need. They create points of connection with others. They are our instinctual responses when all is not right with the world. God engages us in our wholeness, and this includes our emotions. So, we continue to engage them as well.
After several days of my own wrestling with these texts which do not match where my spirit is emotionally, I am grateful for the discipline of living in that tension.
We serve a God who has come near to us, who continues to come near to us, whether we cry out in lament or sing for joy.
The following prayer is the fruit of my wrestling. A riff on the texts for today. It is my attempt to create room for much-needed lament while continuing to acknowledge the goodness of the Lord, seeking to live into these words of the psalmist:
I will bless the Lord at all times.
* * * * *
A Prayer for Deliverance Not Yet Come
Lord, we long to see your face.
We seek you,
when earthquakes rumble through our cities
when wildfires rage with unstoppable force
when lives built with brick, wood, and blood crumble in a hurricane’s winds
when the doctor has no good news
when the hospital bills come
when the cancer is finally stronger than the one fighting it
when our spirits are too heavy for us to lift on our own
when loneliness settles in like a frost
when anxiety smothers like a thick wool blanket
when the alcoholic’s hidden stash of tequila is found
when an abuser’s hunger for power and control paints the skin of another purple
when careless words twist confidence into a mangle of self-doubt
when disunity is the language of our interactions
when prejudice and hatred are donned with pride
when we remain blind to the privilege that colors how we see our neighbors
We seek you, Lord.
May your ears not be closed to our cries
even when our cries have not yet found a voice.
We long to taste the honey of your goodness
and not the salt of our tears.
We long to see the fruit of compassion
instead of the sowing of the seeds of strife.
We long to breathe deeply in songs of celebration
instead of persistent gasps of lament.
Be near to the brokenhearted.
Plant your peace and steadfastness in our hearts.
Save our crushed spirits.
Keep our bones.
Redeem our lives.
For you, the Lord, are God.
You, the Lord, are faithful.
You, the Lord, are Emmanuel.
You have come near to the brokenhearted
and taken on our broken hearts as your own,
pumping with the same blood
in the same bruised skin.
You have planted your Holy Spirit
in our own spirits, crushed though they may be.
You, the Lord, are a God who redeems.
And so, even as we breathe our lament,
your praise will continually be in our mouths.
We will bless the Lord at all times.
Though our bones are shaking,
we will stand firm in you.
By the strong name of Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.