“Be merciful to me, O God, for in thee my soul takes refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by….” So begins the lament of Psalm 57. The voice of lament is heard often in the Hebrew Psalms. Thankfully they have been valued and preserved for all time in the Hebrew Scriptures. Trouble is part and parcel of life – always has been and likely always will be ’til Jesus comes. From the pit to tribulation to lions with big teeth and hurricanes named Irene and Katrina, and wildfires, and cancer, and…… the list is endless. But thankfully not as endless as God’s love for all God’s creation. For at the end of every lament, there is assurance of God’s presence in the suffering and God’s steadfast love that is “great to the heavens.”
This has been a sad and trying week for many of us in eastern North Carolina. Many have lost homes and crops. Many more have been without electricity and without clean water. I have been reminded of the privilege of creature comforts American life affords and how often I take such blessing for granted.
Last night my first tears came. I stood on the deck – or rather what’s left of it – laid my hands palm up on the railing and confessed to God that I was sad and tired, but I yielded all the weariness to make space for the overwhelming thanksgiving that settled over me. “My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast.”
I have done disaster response work after Fran and Floyd and Katrina. Nothing has matched the work I have done in my own house after Irene. My sentimentality faded with the flood and every “treasure” was covered with flood residue that contained who knows what. If you ever need a motivation to get rid of something, just imagine it soaked and mucky in flood water.
Trouble keeps a faith limber. Little things matter more. Like the neighbor’s visit with a little salsa and lot of commiseration. Healing is found in the company of others who suffer. I will not say suffering is good, but it’s life. Why would I ever think I would not be the one with trouble?
So fill my heart, Lord, with the end of lament’s voice and the beginning of the cry of joy. “Be exalted, O God, above the heavens (Be exalted above the disaster, the war, the famine, the illness, the joblessness, the despair, the financial ruin, and all the other strifes that would call me away from you.) Let Thy glory be over all the earth.” And let the praise begin with with the words on my lips and in my heart tonight. Amen.