Mercy in the Middle


Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 102; 27; 147:12-20, Habakuk 3:1-10 (11-15) 16-18, Philippians 3:12-21, John 17:1-8

One of singer Amy Grant’s most powerful songs is “Ask Me,” the true story of a young girl who experiences sexual abuse in her home. The arc of the song is hopeful, but not naive. Ms. Grant follows in the footsteps of psalmists and prophets struggling to understand where God could be in the middle of terrible trials. Lent is the perfect time for us to ask these questions, to mourn the state of the world. This season reminds us why we need the savior to enter God’s creation again and again.

Psalm 102 uses striking images to illustrate its author’s misery. He eats ash and drinks tears. His bones burn like a furnace. His heart withers like grass. His enemies taunt him until he is helpless as a little bird on a rooftop. Psalm 27 is the plea of someone whose enemies devour his flesh and exhale violence. The prophet Habakuk has visions of war and famine. Yet in the midst of these terrible events, all these writers cry out to the Lord. Habakuk says despite all the horrors around him, “I will rejoice in the LORD; I will exult in the God of my salvation.”

Faith does not require us to pretend we are okay with everything in our lives. When parents or children fall seriously ill, when civilians are bombed, when we lose a job, when we struggle with depression, when natural disasters destroy communities … God does not require us to meekly accept it. We can rant and rail to God about injustice and pain because – as Ms. Grant sings – “He’s in the middle of [our] pain, in the middle of [our] shame.”

Sometimes life stinks, and God knows it. Psalmists, prophets, and terrified little girls survive not by pretending God makes everything OK, but by finding the peace that comes through suffering authentically in God’s presence. Christ is God’s incarnate presence in a grieving world. He doesn’t come to meet uncomplaining cheerleaders, but to share in our suffering and redeem it through his own. Embrace the brokenness of yourself and the world, for that is where peace begins.

Comfort: God is always with you, even when your suffering makes him seem far away.

Challenge: Throughout Lent, look for opportunities to let someone share their struggles with you. Don’t try to fix it – just be present.

Prayer: Gracious and merciful God, thank you for suffering with me through my struggles. Please help me to lean on your mercies when my difficulties seem overwhelming. As I bare my soul to you, share your peace with me so others may see it also. Amen.

Discussion: This reflection is on specific readings, but chances are no matter when you read this you are aware of some unfolding tragedy. How are you responding to it?

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