What is it like to be an academically successful college student wondering if you will be deported before you graduate, sent back to a country you left when you were so young you can’t remember it? What is it like to be a parent of children you sense won’t have now the chance for success that you had when you were growing up? Or a parent of children who still suffer the deck-being-stacked-against-them that you lived with years ago? What about those who study the oceans, fish, and coral reefs, and who are already counting the destruction that is happening? What about feeling ill but not knowing why, having tests and waiting for the results, fearing the news that might be coming?
Serious worry, fear, anger, hurt—how does one live in these times? How does one avoid reacting in ways that hurt oneself and maybe others? Where is hope?
This kind of time may be one in which to wrestle with God, being deeply and rawly engaged—to cry out, complain, be angry. Faithful wrestling can uncover theological misunderstandings and superficial ideas that may be broken open to allow a stronger and more vibrant faith to emerge. A quick look at the Psalms will let you know that in your complaint you are in good company: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” “Why must I walk around mournfully because the enemy oppresses me?” “How long, O Lord?”
As a chaplain in oncology there were times when situations were just too hard to bear. I remember on such occasions finding a place by myself and having a talk with God. Sometimes I wrote, sometimes I was able to be in my thoughts and feelings at the core, and to give voice to the pain. (You could say I raged at God.) I stayed with those feelings until I felt heard and I was finished. (There certainly was no formula.) And then there came some measure of peace, some comfort or guidance. Often the situation didn’t change but I did. Certainly these have been times of spiritual growth. I learned a lot about prayer and who God is, and I found greater trust. Most importantly, I was enabled to live the next day, in the love of the Beloved.
Think about a time when you felt frightened, angry, or in pain. How do you handle such times?
Where is God in hard times? Does Jesus enter your picture?
“As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God. My soul thirsts for you, for the living God” (Psalm 42: 1-2a).
For further reflection:
“Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak.” (See Exodus 32: 22-32.)
[Jesus said,] “I am deeply grieved, even to death . . . And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed . . . (See Matthew 26: 36-46).