Can I confess something? Lately, I’ve had a hard time connecting with God like I usually do. One of the things I often speak passionately about is creating a rhythm of communion with God – a regular time and physical space and way of connecting with God that’s predictable and comfortable – something you look forward to each day. But over the last few weeks, the Bible I often pick up each morning with eagerness feels oddly heavy; the pen I use for journaling feels more like a burden than a tool of freedom; the blank page full of opportunity for creativity stares back at me with emptiness.
Why? Why has it been so difficult to connect with God? As I have reflected over this past weekend, I’ve discovered that for me it’s been difficult because I have no words. I have no words to adequately describe my grief, my pain, my fears, my hopes. Every attempt of mine to formulate a sentence to communicate with my God feels like a mountain too great to climb because I just do not have words to express what I’m feeling.
I worry about you. Wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, however you’re navigating through COVID-19. I know so many of you have been affected in ways I can’t begin to wrap my mind around. Even if you haven’t been affected, I’ve heard from your stories how fear still has its grip on you. I grieve for you – those of you who have been directly impacted by the tornado that swept through our community — and for you, graduate, who didn’t get the graduation celebration you deserved and now face the future with an anxiety I cannot know.
But greater still, I weep with you.
Their names etched into my mind and on my heart. Experiences I cannot fully understand, try as I might. My husband and I personally wrestle together with the questions “what if?” and “when?” I do not have words for this pain or for this grief.
Jeremiah knew something about this. The book of Lamentations is composed of five poems, or songs, each an expression of grief over the fall of Jerusalem. Similar to a eulogy at a funeral, lamenting is a form of mourning a loss. Jeremiah’s sorrow and despair was intended to produce hope in God: “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness,” (Jeremiah 3:23).
Sources argue that the most important influence on 20th-century music in America was the musical culture of African Americans – music developed within the bonds of slavery – in slave spirituals, work calls and chants. Born out of lived experiences, came the songs that would offer hope. Thomas Andrew Dorsey wrote the infamous gospel hymn, “Precious Lord, Take My Hand” in 1932 after the sudden death of his wife and newborn son during childbirth. In his grief he clung to the hope of Isaiah 41:13, “For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, ‘Fear not, I am the one who helps you.’”
My Bible tells me, in 1 Corinthians 12:26, that if one member of the body of Christ suffers, all suffer together. Sitting in my husband’s pain; sitting with friends and family members, co-workers and pastors, students and employees, and hearing your pain, I cry out with you. I acknowledge that I do not have the luxury of turning away from it all, or tuning it out, or shying away from it as painful as it might be for me, because my privilege demands that I find a voice, lift up my voice, and speak on behalf of your pain and your experience.
My Bible tells me that the purpose of my life, and your life, is to “Love mercy. Act justly. Walk humbly with our God,” (Micah 6:8). Sometimes walking humbly with God looks like a peaceful march around the walls of racial separation with shouts of lament until those walls come tumbling down in the powerful name of Jesus Christ.
Maverick City Music, Vol. 3, has been on repeat in our home over the last few weeks. The song, titled “Promises”, captures what my heart does not have the words to describe otherwise: “Yes, I’ll still bless You. In the middle of the storm, in the middle of my trial, I’ll still bless You. Great is your faithfulness to me. From the rising sun to the setting same, I will praise your name. Great is your faithfulness to me.”
I do not have answers, but I know the One who does – the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Even when it is hard to feel deeply connected with Him, His faithfulness is the same, His presence is with us. Today, though I lament and I still choose to bless Him, I’m also asking Him for my marching orders. What about you? What is your song of lament? How are you using your voice to proclaim His goodness and cry for justice?