Pause in the Pain

October 11, 2017

Houston, the Gulf Coast, Florida, Puerto Rico, St. Croix, St. Thomas, Barbuda, Haiti, Mexico City, Montana, Syria, North Korea—these are a few of the places and people who rest heavy on my heart as I read and pray the words of Psalm 144.

“Blessed be the Lord, my rock… my rock and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield in whom I take refuge.”

That is, You are the rock of my salvation and the only hope many have amid such devastation. We are overwhelmed by what is happening, and we are paralyzed to respond even as we hear the cries of those in the disasters: “Don’t forget us.”

“O Lord, what are human beings that you regard them, mortals that you think of them?”

Lord, we are nothing; we imagine ourselves at the center of the world, and yet, in the face of storms and disasters, we are reminded of how tiny we are, how little we control, how much does not rest in our hands.

“Stretch out your hand from on high; set me free and rescue me from the mighty waters…”

How many have prayed this prayer, awaiting rescue in their flooded homes? How many have prayed desperately for the deliverance of their loved ones in the rubble, in the fires, in the fighting? How many have prayed prayers of desperation, awaiting deliverance, awaiting a miracle?

“May there be no breach in the walls, no exile, and no cry in our streets.”

Yet, the streets cry out, the people are exiled from their homes, and many of our walls have tumbled.

Lord, hear our prayer, for the wounds that cannot be bound up, for the losses that cannot be fathomed, and for those who fear being forgotten. Hear our prayer that wars and rumors of war will cease, that the walls can be rebuilt, the people restored. Lord, hear our cries of sorrow and our cries that are overwhelmed by the needs we see all around us. AMEN.

We, the people of God, are well versed in celebration—we celebrate the good news, the gifts of God, and we focus on the promises of salvation. But, we often forget—the Bible teaches us the power of lament as well. Scripture shows us that our God is a God who responds and listens when we cry out, when we mourn, when we are afraid, and when we do not know what else to do. These past few weeks have felt paralyzing, fearful, and sorrowful. We have prayed for deliverance, protection, and hope. We need also to cry out in sorrow, for the devastation is all around us, the wounds are deep, and these hurts will take far more time to heal than the news cycles that have already moved from Houston to Florida and today are focused on Puerto Rico and tomorrow will be somewhere else. We have seen scenes of great heroism and acts of great love, but we have also seen deep loss and sorrow.

Let us lament together; let us be willing to give voice to the hurt and sorrow. Let us not be afraid to cry out to the God of our salvation—that enough is enough, we can endure little more, we need deliverance, we need the presence of the one who saves.

We need to be willing to pause in the pain, to wait a little longer to listen to the voices that must be heard. We need to learn to weep with those who weep without imagining that we can answer all their sorrow. As we look around our world, as we read the news and watch stories of the disasters, we need to pray that our hearts and eyes would remain open, that we would not be afraid to cry out in lament, that we would remember and call to mind frequently the needs of others.

I wonder—as we cry out for the pain of others, as we pray for deliverance, as we lament—how might we also reach out? How can we be sure that we do not forget, but that we continue to call to mind both the promises of God and the needs around us? How can we lament together and hold out the promises of God to another?


About the Author
  • Edie Lenz is the pastor of First Reformed Church in Fulton, IL; a small town on the Mississippi River. She is married to Brian, a research chemist. They have one son, Caleb who is nine. Edie has been in ministry for 14 years, the last 7 have been at First. In addition to serving as pastor, Edie is the chaplain of the Fulton Fire Department, an all-volunteer service that provides fire and medical emergency care to the community of Fulton.

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