By Katy Krumbach
Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am languishing;
O LORD, heal me, for my bones are troubled.
My soul also is sorely troubled.
But thou, O LORD - how long? (RSV)
Like the psalmist, we can believe that God loves us, that God is present in our life, and that God is gracious and caring toward us, and yet, when we are in the darkness and void we cry out: ‘O LORD, how long?’ Most people of faith have thought or cried out this question in the midst of despair.
For those crying out in the night, the question can, in itself, raise doubts:
Ø ‘Is my faith real? solid? or is my crying out a sign of unwillingness- a weakness of faith?’
Ø ‘Just how quickly am I willing to return to MY strengths, MY resources, MY self when the going gets tough?’ Do I really trust God?
Ø ‘What would this moment look like if I were faithful and trusted God?’
When our two oldest children were 8 and 9, they loved to wander in the 600 acres of woods behind our house. One evening, as it was getting dark, we realized they were not back yet and our anxiety level rapidly grew. My husband and I tore out of the house- into the woods- and began calling “Alex! Audrey!” And then, we called, “Audrey! Alex!” It became so dark the flashlights we brought needed to be turned on. The darkness ate up the light so that we could see our next step, but no more.
“Alex! Audrey! - - - Audrey! Alex!” Into the darkness we cried- then we heard a faint cry: “Mom! Dad!” It still took about 10 minutes for us to be hugging and crying together. The walk back to house was a retelling, a collective shedding of the stress as we shared our experiences and feelings. In the years which followed, the kids learned more woods-skills and were never lost again. I thought this was a growing-up experience of outdoor skills.
Years later, Audrey asked me if I remembered this day. Oh yeah- like I could ever forget it. Then she added: “You know mom, what I learned that day was more than not getting lost in the woods. I learned that I could trust you. I learned how far you would go for me (for you see, that is the night I threw down the crutches I had been on for weeks and decided to get past the pain.) I learned I could trust you. Later, when I was in high school and college, and we argued – when I was determined you were wrong, I always remembered that night and listened to you although I did not agree with you- I would give you the benefit of the doubt. I trusted you because I knew you were trust-worthy.”
Moments of doubts can be opportunities to remember:
Remember HOW and WHEN God loves you- not just that God loves you;
Remember HOW and WHEN God’s presence was real- not just that it is;
Remember ‘this is my body broken for you . . . this is my blood poured out for you.’
In our moments of despair when we cry out, “How long, oh God?” we can remember our relationship with God based on experience- we can be sure that God is the source of love, strength and peace because of our past. We can be sure that this moment, too, will become another memory upon which we can build our trust in God.