Globally, we faced the horror of terrorist attacks in Beirut and Paris, deeply entrenching the world further into war. The horrendous loss of life will lead to more horrendous loss of life. At the core of terrorism lies the goal of instilling fear and therefore fear based decisions. I fear many of those decision are on the horizon after last week.
Even closer to home, two people in my community shared the terrible news of cancer. Even if others weren't threatening the vibrancy of life, at times our bodies revolt against us in terrible and inexplicable ways. Cancer is the terrorist of the body, whose only purpose is to multiply chaos at the expense of health.
I don't hate many things, but unequivocally, I hate terrorism and I hate cancer, probably because both formed my development in such profound ways.
As a child, the Oklahoma City Bombings brightened the television during evening dinners and led to a world that challenged safety even inside governmental headquarters. On September 11th, 2011, I watched live as a sophomore in health class as two planes crashed into the Twin Towers in New York City, further instilling fear for travelers, for workers, for customers, for us all. Even more so, that day eventually led to many loved ones finding themselves in the thick of war, too far from home and too close to death. The recent massacre of the Charleston Nine brought this violence into a church and further revealed the racism embedded within our culture. The fact that these examples only reflect a few of the terror attacks I've known in my life indicates the prevalence of terror in this world. I hate terrorism .
Then, as I consider all of those I love who've battled renegade tumors, whose on bodies terrorized their own lives, I just get sick. I hate cancer.
So what can Christians do amidst such violence, such illness, such despair?
Pray the Psalms. Seriously.
The Psalms are so deeply honest with God that they can feel blasphemous. Expressing our anger and sadness? Telling God what to do? Demanding that God keep the promises made in covenants past? But, in times like these, such psalms have a deep power. Psalms are God's invitation to us to do just that, to speak authentically from our weary eyes and heavy tears, and from that place, remind God of the promises made to us, of the divine identity revealed to us, and to expect God to act in accordance with those promises and that identity.
So, today, I read Psalm 69 as a prayer, reminding God of our deep need for the work of Christ in the world, of our need for deliverance from the enemies of cancer and terror, and that my trust, though shaken, still remains in the Lord. In the face of fear, in the midst of fear, God invites us to pray boldly through the words of the Psalms. God invites us to expect divine work for the good. God invites us to seek deliverance promised. We can be honest with God about our pain because the psalms not only invite that authenticity, but they put the very words on our lips. These scriptures invite us into an authentic, honest, and hopeful conversation with God. Today, in the midst of the pain of last week, I am thankful for that invitation.
Psalm 69For the music leader. According to “The Lilies.” Of David.1 Save me, God,
because the waters have reached my neck!
2 I have sunk into deep mud.
My feet can’t touch the bottom!
I have entered deep water;
the flood has swept me up.
3 I am tired of crying.
My throat is hoarse.
My eyes are exhausted with waiting for my God.
4 More numerous than the hairs on my head
are those who hate me for no reason.
My treacherous enemies,
those who would destroy me, are countless.
Must I now give back
what I didn’t steal in the first place?
5 God, you know my foolishness;
my wrongdoings aren’t hidden from you.
6 Lord God of heavenly forces!--
don’t let those who hope in you
be put to shame because of me.
God of Israel!--
don’t let those who seek you
be disgraced because of me.
7 I am insulted because of you.
Shame covers my face.
8 I have become a stranger to my own brothers,
an immigrant to my mother’s children.
9 Because passion for your house has consumed me,
the insults of those who insult you have fallen on me!
10 I wept while I fasted--
even for that I was insulted.
11 When I wore funeral clothes,
people made fun of me.
12 Those who sit at the city gate muttered things about me;
drunkards made up rude songs.
13 But me? My prayer reaches you, Lord,
at just the right time.
God, in your great and faithful love,
answer me with your certain salvation!
14 Save me from the mud!
Don’t let me drown!
Let me be saved from those who hate me
and from these watery depths!
15 Don’t let me be swept away by the floodwaters!
Don’t let the abyss swallow me up!
Don’t let the pit close its mouth over me!
16 Answer me, Lord, for your faithful love is good!
Turn to me in your great compassion!
17 Don’t hide your face from me, your servant,
because I’m in deep trouble.
Answer me quickly!
18 Come close to me!
Save me because of my enemies!
19 You know full well the insults I’ve received;
you know my shame and my disgrace.
All my adversaries are right there in front of you.
20 Insults have broken my heart.
I’m sick about it.
I hoped for sympathy,
but there wasn’t any;
I hoped for comforters,
but couldn’t find any.
21 They gave me poison for food.
To quench my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.
22 Let the table before them become a trap,
their offerings a snare.
23 Let their eyes grow too dim to see;
make their insides tremble constantly.
24 Pour out your anger on them--
let your burning fury catch them.
25 Let their camp be devastated;
let no one dwell in their tents.
26 Because they go after those you’ve already struck;
they talk about the pain of those you’ve already pierced.
27 Pile guilt on top of their guilt!
Don’t let them come into your righteousness!
28 Let them be wiped out of the scroll of life!
Let them not be recorded along with the righteous!
29 And me? I’m afflicted.
I’m full of pain.
Let your salvation keep me safe, God!
30 I will praise God’s name with song;
I will magnify him with thanks
31 because that is more pleasing to the Lord than an ox,
more pleasing than a young bull with full horns and hooves.
32 Let the afflicted see it and be glad!
You who seek God--
let your hearts beat strong again
33 because the Lord listens to the needy
and doesn’t despise his captives.
34 Let heaven and earth praise God,
the oceans too, and all that moves within them!
35 God will most certainly save Zion
and will rebuild Judah’s cities
so that God’s servants can live there and possess it.
36 The offspring of God’s servants will inherit Zion,
and those who love God’s name will dwell there.