“…If hard and bitter ways should be our lot, help us to remain steadfast, never complaining about our burdens even in the most difficult days…” — from a prayer by Christoph Friedrich Blumhardt, shared for October 11, 2017
Rouse yourself! Why do you sleep, O Lord?
Awake, do not cast us off forever!
Why do you hide your face?
Why do you forget our affliction and oppression?
For we sink down to the dust;
our bodies cling to the ground.
Rise up, come to our help.
Redeem us for the sake of your steadfast love.
For World Mental Health Awareness Day, a friend of mine wrote an interesting piece about his struggles with The Darkness. It prompted another mutual friend to describe the ways people who considered themselves Christian had muted and denied her illness, such that her treatment was long delayed.
And then this morning I find the above scrap in a prayer intended to fit me for the fight of faith — are you kidding me??
If the Psalmists can complain, if Job can complain for 42 chapters and still be re-blessed beyond all measure,
I’m complaining too.
I think it is a terrible theology (that is, a way of thinking about God, thanks Dr. Rigby) to require the people of Christ to be mute soldiers. Not that I’m a fan of “believe in Jesus and God will give you A CAR!” prosperity-gospel, holy vending machine stuff—I find that equally unnatural.
If God made us in His image, male and female he made us (Genesis 1:27), and the Bible (which by all reports is here to share with us what God is like) includes tales of God angry, God sad, God delighted, God irritated, and God patient…
…it seems to me that God anticipates that we, too, will be patient, irritated, delighted, sad, and angry.
And if I anthropomorphize God some more, wouldn’t God be concerned if we weren’t all these things? From the standpoint of a beloved Parent, who observes the children and worries when one starts acting A Little Too Perky?
In one of my class readings, the scholar mentioned a rabbinic teaching where God asks things not because God wants to know—an omniscient God already knows—but because God wants us to know, wants us to say it out loud, whatever it is. I agree, and believe this is similarly a core part of prayer. Because when I was under psychiatric care, there were lots of things I had to say out loud. And an equal number of things I had to write down. Not because they weren’t known! My therapists and I were both aware of these things, to an extent. But they had to be said because to say them was to pin them down. To pull them into the light where we could look thoughtfully at them, rather than leave them, unacknowledged, in the dark.
When I shake my fist at God, and yell and cry about how unfair, how much it hurts, how I want it to stop—I have pulled the seed of that suffering out into my hand. I give it a name. I begin to know how big it is, where its roots grow. I have no doubt that God was aware of all these things, aware of my suffering before I named it—but now I am more aware of the things God knows about it. What its boundaries are. Perhaps even what its relationships are with other parts of my life.
A love so steadfast that it doesn’t budge in the face of anger, even volcanic anger, is a love that has the potential to help the angry one breathe a little more deeply, to rest a little more gently within oneself, to be able to pause and say, “Yes, all that, and…”
Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud,
be gracious to me and answer me!
“Come,” my heart says, “seek his face!”
Your face, Lord, do I seek.
Do not hide your face from me.