Typical Haitian Neighborhood (pre-earthquake)

Today’s Miami Herald featured an article about a Haitian woman with questions for God.  The article entitled This Believer Now Asks: God, why? was tucked away in the Disaster in Haiti section of the paper. Nadege Charles, a Catholic believer, wrote the article first-person sharing her lament and wondering why God saved some and did not save others from the deadly force of the tremor.  I was grateful to find this article in the Herald, and to see that people are taking their questions and grief to God.  Believing in God does not mean being more polite when things happen.  It means being more honest.  As a man told me last week when he confronted me, relationships require honesty and that sometimes means confrontation and conflict.  This has always been true with believers and God.  The Bible is filled with accounts like Charles’ of probing painful questions for God.  The prophet Jeremiah experienced such pain in his dealings with God that he dared to say:

5 He has besieged me and surrounded me
with bitterness and hardship.

6 He has made me dwell in darkness
like those long dead.

7 He has walled me in so I cannot escape;
he has weighed me down with chains.

8 Even when I call out or cry for help,
he shuts out my prayer.

9 He has barred my way with blocks of stone;
he has made my paths crooked.

10 Like a bear lying in wait,
like a lion in hiding,

11 he dragged me from the path and mangled me
and left me without help.

12 He drew his bow
and made me the target for his arrows.  Lamentations 3

God didn’t strike down Jeremiah.  Actually, Jeremiah’s words reflect the heart of someone very close to God.  His words are not an offense to God.  They reveal the nature of the stormy relationship that God has always had with his intimate friends.  Teresa of Avila once said to the Lord, “Lord, you would have less enemies if you treated your friends better.”  The book of Psalms, the hymnbook of the Old Testament, is filled with questions directed to God. The model questioning song is Psalm 13:

1 How long, O LORD ? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?

2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and every day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?

3 Look on me and answer, O LORD my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death;

4 my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

5 But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.

6 I will sing to the LORD,
for he has been good to me.

This challenges notions that the worship of believers is solemn or tame for that matter.  I believe this psalm does not reflect a moment in worship but the way that we process our grief.  We can’t get from the first words, “How long?” to “I will sing” in the scope of a few moments.  The way begins with confusion and questions and fears and mourning.  The goal is not politeness or even coherence.  The first step is to get our feelings out into the open, and to direct them to God.  It will be ugly, and raw but real.  We hunger for such honesty with God, and moments like these should not be rushed.  Often the feelings that take the longest to surface can help us the most.

The second movement involves a calling upon God to act.  Based on what we know of God’s mercy we call for him to answer, for him to respond.  We plead and petition.  Sometimes, we challenge God.  We implore.  We beg.  Our longings find their voice in  these requests to God.  We don’t want just answers.  We want God, and we expect him to do as he has promised.  We expect him  to act as the God we know him to be.

The third movement requires us to continue to assert our dependence on God.  The Psalmist knows he has no other hope.  He pledges his trust before God answers, before God responds. This step requires us to cling to the character and promises of God.  This must be done before the matter is resolved, before we are satisfied, while we continue to grieve. Trusting is a choice the believer must make.

Finally, we find a song to sing in honest worship.  We know nothing of the tune for the lyrics of Psalm 13.  Does the singing of worship end with an unresolved chord?  Or, is it triumphant?  We just do not know.  What has your experience been?  This week I remain in the first of the movements of this great song.  God longs for communion with us, even with all our questions and grief.  One thing that can be said about David. His enemies drove him to God.  The events of this past week have done the same for me.  Have they for you?

One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Sandy on January 19, 2017 at 2:47 pm

    I appreciate this permission to be honest before God. Love “We can’t get from the first words, “How long?” to “I will sing” in the scope of a few moments.”


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