Like most people, I was outraged by the events in Paris on Friday evening. It was a chilling reminder that our world is full of evil and sin. I can’t imagine what the families and friends of those killed and maimed by these fanatics must be going through right now. My heart and my thoughts go out to them and my prayers go up to the Father on their behalf. But that raises the question, “How do people of faith understand such events?” The Bible never sugarcoats the fact that we live in a broken world, full of broken people with free will who sometimes use their freedom in destructive ways that have far reaching consequences. Innocent lives are often destroyed along the way.
But in the story of Job, through the book of Lamentations and the Psalms of lament, Scripture gives those struck by tragedy permission to utter raw and honest words to their Creator. We don’t have to curb our emotions or soften our angry words in the face of human suffering. We can be real with our God. He’s a big boy, he can take it! Besides, he knows how we really feel – we’re only fooling ourselves when we’re less than honest with the Father. Psalm 88 came up this morning in my daily devotions. It's a fitting prayer for times like these.
O Lord, God of my salvation, when, at night, I cry out in your presence,
Let my prayer come before you; incline your ear to my cry.
For my soul is full of troubles, and my life draws near to Sheol.
I am counted among those who go down to the Pit;
I am like those who have no help, like those forsaken among the dead,
Like the slain that lie in the grave, like those whom you remember no more,
For they are cut off from your hand.
You have put me in the depths of the Pit, in the regions dark and deep.
Your wrath lies heavy upon me, and you overwhelm me with all your waves.
You have caused my companions to shun me; you have made me a thing of horror to them.
I am shut in so that I cannot escape; my eye grows dim through sorrow.
Every day I call on you, O Lord; I spread out my hands to you.
Do you work wonders for the dead?
Do the shades rise up to praise you?
Is your steadfast love declared in the grave, or your faithfulness in Abaddon?
Are your wonders known in the darkness, or your saving help in the land of forgetfulness?
But I, O Lord, cry out to you; in the morning my prayer comes before you.
O Lord, why do you cast me off?
Why do you hide your face from me?
Wretched and close to death from my youth up, I suffer your terrors; I am desperate.
Your wrath has swept over me; your dread assaults destroy me.
They surround me like a flood all day long; from all sides they close in on me.
You have caused friend and neighbor to shun me; my companions are in darkness.
Though this psalm ends in darkness, the resurrection of Jesus and the renewal of all things in the future gives me hope to face the present, even in times of despair. Yet, I’m well aware that until Christ returns, the already is not yet what it will someday be. The new creation and the new age may have broken in, but God’s kingdom is still coming and God’s will is not yet fully realized on earth as it is in heaven. Until that time, when tragedy strikes, we can turn to the Scriptures to find the words to pray, knowing that the Lord hears our cries and understands what we are going through because he’s walked in our shoes and suffered on our behalf. - Shay