What’s happening in your life?
What’s happening in the world?
We are one month removed from the tragic shooting in Las Vegas, two months removed from the trio of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria. While our newsfeed fills with stories of suffering here and around the world, we also have friends whose marriages are ending, or who fight a battle against cancer, or who grieve the loss of a loved one. Maybe suffering is not just happening miles away or in the home of a friend; maybe it has entered into your own life.
Working at a Christian college in the Midwest, I am deeply immersed in Christian community, and I often see Christians dash past suffering so that we might cling to hope. Even in Psalm 5, the reading for today, I see the editors of my Bible doing so. The psalmist wrote in the midst of fear and uncertainty, in a moment of suffering. In my Bible, it is entitled “Trust in God for deliverance from Enemies.” This is a psalm which displays trust in God, but it is also a psalm in which we see someone who is faithful coming before God with tears and pleading.
The psalmist holds in tension his or her own emotion in the presence of enemies with the truth of who God is.
In our moments of suffering—whether they be collective moments of suffering or isolated to our own selves—we can walk that same tension. We can bring our cries, our sighs, and plead our case before God with the assurance that He will hear us. This is an act of hope. We can acknowledge our suffering before God as an act of hope. We don’t need to leave the reality of our situation or the situation of our world in order to display hope in God and His character.
Here’s the thing we often forget: God can take it. If we are angry at the violence or injustice we see, we can bring that to God in prayer. He can handle it. If we are sad that someone we loved has died, we can bring that to God in prayer. He can handle it. He can take our fear, our anger, and our sadness. Look again at Psalm 5. As our refuge, as our source of protection, as One who abundantly loves us, God can and will listen as we plead our case.
At least in the community I serve, Christians often forget that the act of bringing our emotions before the Lord in prayer is allowed. In fact, the Psalmist even gives us permission to bring emotions like anger, which is so often deemed un-Christian, before God. The psalmists do it all the time. In Psalm 5, they are delicately dancing between the truth of their situation and the truth of God’s character.
The psalmists give us permission to bring whatever is happening and however we feel about it to the moment of prayer. That doesn’t always come naturally for us. If you don’t have words for what is happening and how you are feeling, then you can even borrow the words we have already been given. We can give back to God the words of the psalmist. These words give us permission to pray with all of our fervor or sadness and anger. They also give us the words to pray within those very emotions when we need them.