I am all out of words. I can say the same ones over and over, but they seem to vanish into thin air and have no effect whatsoever. If I say one thing I might hear, “You have no right to say that.” There is anger, apathy, confusion, distrust and emotional exhaustion gripping our nation right now. Even those who manage to remain less anxious and somewhat detached (that is different than disinterested) cannot escape the cauldron.
There is plenty of psychic and emotional damage being done daily. The year 2020 has required a whole new lexicon to interpret our lives. The words we had in hand were not quite up to the task of communicating, so we pulled out a few old ones, combined some others, and redefined a couple for current purposes.
I have seen the words “I’m tired” on social media more frequently than ever. There is frustration that has resulted in more name-calling, stereotyping, racial profiling and prejudice, and spreading of bad information than is normal for our new version of the Wild West.
And, yet, I am still hopeful. I am hopeful because there are those who are still willing to listen and to talk. I am hopeful because there is good in this world. I am hopeful because there are those whose courage will not fail. I am hopeful because I believe that good hearts will eventually win the day.
It may seem strange, but I am one who believes that lamentation and mourning are signs of hope. Once we have moved past anger, blame and exhausted all our energy we can move to lamentation. I believe that expressing sorrow verbally after self-inflicted disaster is one of the green shoots of repentance. Once we stop shouting and begin to lament, we will be on the path to healing.
Since I am out of words, I will borrow some to attempt to express both anguish and hope. Truth is, it is always a part of life. In better times I would say it is what makes things interesting. Now I will say that it opens us up to seeing God working in powerful, unexpected and perhaps unpopular ways.
When Jerusalem was destroyed and rendered uninhabitable, a set of poems connected with the prophet Jeremiah was used to express the pain the nation was feeling. We are not in the dire situation they were facing, but the Lamentations of Jeremiah is certainly worth reading — just do not make it the last thing you read.
Here is a hopeful passage that some will recognize as a song.
Lamentations 3:19-25 (RSV)
“Remember my affliction and my bitterness, the wormwood and the gall!
My soul continually thinks of it and is bowed down within me.
But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is thy faithfulness.
‘The LORD is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him.’
The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul that seeks him.”
To express the frustration that I sometimes feel when praying for this world I can turn to Romans 8. It is a powerful chapter (even more so in its context) that recognizes our pain and provides unshakable hope. “We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Likewise, the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words.” (Rom. 8:22-26, RSV)
And the wonderful vision in Revelation 22:1-2, “Then he showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.”
Sean Niestrath lives and ministers in Madisonville. You may contact him via email at email@example.com.