Rich Melheim says that by the end of the day we should be able to name a high and a low—and we should pray about both. That really is a countercultural discipline. We know that in regard to the news, “if it bleeds it leads.” We all long to stay far from the world’s ugliness. Some will build a protective wall against the big hurts of life. Others will deny the world’s reality by choosing to see only the good.
Our psalm of complaint opens with the psalmist posing some pretty hard questions to God: “How long, O lOrD? Will you forget me forever? How long must I bear pain in my soul?” The psalmist’s questions imply that not only is he suffering, but God is responsible! The petitioner speaks in desperation. God has left him to his own devices and neglected his needs.
After the ve questions, the psalmist lays out his demands: “Consider, answer, give light.” He pleads for God’s attention. Only God can “give light to [his] eyes,” restoring his vitality and well-being. Only God can bring vindication against his enemies.
Sometime in our life, chaos inevitably breaks through our defenses, turning our world upside down and calling our most treasured beliefs into question. Saint John of the Cross called it “the dark night of the soul.” We, like the psalmist, may nd ourselves in circumstances of total despair and cry out to God, “How long, O LOrD?” This hard conversation may initiate a fresh perspective. Both we and the psalmist may look at our troubles and believe God is not only absent but the cause of our dif cul- ties. So we call to God to attend to us and answer us. Then in God’s steadfast love, God will consider and answer. God will bring us light.
Today I shall have a hard conversation about my sense of God’s absence in my life.
Not only is God’s call on Abraham unthinkable, it jeopardizes the long-delayed but now-realized promise. Yet in the end, Abraham’s faith and God’s grace prevail. Psalm 13 is the classic example of a psalm of complaint. It shows that a prayer of complaint is a vigorous, active form of hope in God. Thus the psalm moves from a situation of need to a resolution in joy and confidence. In the passage from Romans 6, Paul juxtaposes three pairs of opposites: sin versus righteousness, freedom versus slavery, and wages versus gifts. For Paul, sin is a power that exceeds the abilities of human beings to contest. Only God is a match for the power of sin. We cannot earn or achieve eternal life; it is a gift from God. Matthew 10 makes a strong claim about the identification of believers with Jesus and, in turn, with God.
• Read Genesis 22:1-14. We do not often face such demands from God as the one Abraham faced. What hard situations has God called you to? What hard conversations followed?
• Read Psalm 13. The psalmist asks God to pay attention and take his situation seriously. When has that been your request of God?
• Read Romans 6:12-23. When have you felt like a scout earning merit badges for God? How has obedience from the heart helped you reorient your life?
• Read Matthew 10:40-42. What “cup of cold water” might you offer to someone in need?
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