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Hanging on to hope and strength in tragedy

I’m weary. Not just tired. Weary. Soul weary. I feel like I’m barely hanging on.

The brokenness of our world seems on full display recently. Natural and human-generated disasters, division and strife, anguish and suffering. Pain is on every screen. What’s going on?

We long for answers. We pray. We ask. We beg.

We long for the presence of God. Does he see our pain? Where is God in all of this?

In times of incomprehensible suffering, I often turn to the psalms. Our forebears in the faith give voice to my prayers.

How long will you forget me, Lord? Forever? (Psalm 13)

I cry out to you from the depths, Lord—my Lord, listen to my voice! (Psalm 130)

Alongside Babylon’s streams, there we sat down, crying because we remembered Zion.
We hung our lyres up in the trees there… how could we possibly sing? (Psalm 137)

My heart’s troubles keep getting bigger—set me free from my distress! (Psalm 25)

There is some solace to be found in knowing there are others who have also been soul weary, yet held on. Sometimes it must have felt like they were holding onto their faith by their fingernails, but they refused to let go.

Sometimes it feels like we are barely holding on to our faith. Don’t let go. There’s work to be done.

The faithful poet of Psalm 71, for example, was able to acknowledge the pain of the people, and still cling to hope.

My God, rescue me from the power of the wicked;
rescue me from the grip of the wrongdoer and the oppressor
because you are my hope, Lord.
You, Lord, are the one I’ve trusted since childhood.

The prayer continues comparing the life of faith to that of “the wrongdoer and the oppressor.” There is an admission that there are those who taunt the faithful saying things like, “God has abandoned him.”

The psalmist, however, refuses to accept that narrative.

But me? I will hope. Always.
I will add to all your praise.

My mouth will repeat your righteous acts
and your saving deeds all day long.
I don’t even know how many of those there are!

I will dwell on your mighty acts, my Lord.
Lord, I will help others remember nothing but your righteous deeds.

The psalmist is choosing a better story–a story of faith, hope, and resurrection.

This is not a head in the sand denial of suffering–please don’t hear that. Our faithful poet is fully aware of the pain, but chooses to continue to hope in God.

Just a few verses later, we read,

You, who have shown me many troubles and calamities,
will revive me once more.
From the depths of the earth,
you will raise me up one more time.

Our ancient forebears in the faith knew what it was like to be soul weary. Yet to their faith, they clung.

Active waiting

Jesus also taught us about hanging on. He told us the world is not what it ought to be. Jesus, God on earth, knew the pain and suffering of the people around him. The gospels tell us several times that Jesus was moved to compassion for the people.

He healed physical ailments, cast out demons, and offered hope and peace in a world that seemed hopeless and filled many with anxiety. He told us the Kingdom of God–the world the way it is intended to be–was among us, and coming in its fullness soon. He even taught us to pray for God’s will do be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Jesus’s work in the world is a sign of God’s presence. He is the first-fruits, the beta version, of a renewed creation. He shows us the world as it should be.

Then, he equips and sends us, his followers, into the world to participate in God’s work of renewal, restoration, and resurrection.

Psalm 130 says, “My whole being waits for my Lord,” but it is not an idle waiting. Jesus teaches us to wait actively, to continue his healing work in the world. We can do that in big ways, but most often it is the every day ways that make a bigger difference.

When we respond to the pain in the world, we are waiting on the Lord. When we give what we have to make sure hurricane victims have food and clean water, we are participating in renewal. When we help mudslide victims rebuild their homes, we are agents of restoration. When we give clothes to those who have lost everything they owned to a wildfire, we’re giving witness to the Kingdom of God here and yet to come. When we give blood so those wounded in a shooting have what they need to heal, we are participating in resurrection.

We also do this by becoming people who live love in our daily life. We are called to put aside differences and reach out to those who are struggling. Jesus taught us to stand beside the oppressed, the voiceless, the powerless.

He never asked us to win arguments. Instead he called us to make friends. Maybe that’s what Jesus was talking about when he said, “I don’t call you servants any longer… Instead, I call you friends” (John 15:15).

Maybe it is time for the followers of Jesus to take up the yoke of the greatest commandment and love God by loving people.

Today, you may feel like you’re barely hanging on. Me too. Many before us have felt the same, but chose to cling to their faith in the God who saves.

Together, let’s hold onto hope, keep the faith, and be the change.

One Comment

  1. […] has no place in the Kingdom of God.” As those who pray, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” we are praying for an end to racism here and now. Let us work for what we pray for—an end to […]

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