For thousands of years, when people in the world found themselves in a crisis, they have turned to the Psalms for words of hope and peace.
About one-third of the Psalms are called “Lament Psalms.” These Psalms are unashamedly real, blatantly honest. They speak to the reality of the pain of our world: the plight of the poor; the despair of the displaced; the evil of war; the scourge of disease, and the horrors natural disasters.
Psalm 6 is perhaps my favorite “Lament Psalm.” For here the Psalmist honestly pours out his heart before God like none other:
2 Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am languishing;
O Lord, heal me, for my bones are shaking with terror.
3 My soul also is struck with terror,
while you, O Lord—how long?
4 Turn, O Lord, save my life;
deliver me for the sake of your steadfast love.
5 For in death there is no remembrance of you;
in Sheol who can give you praise?
6 I am weary with my moaning;
every night I flood my bed with tears;
I drench my couch with my weeping.
7 My eyes waste away because of grief;
they grow weak because of all my foes.
We do not know why the Psalmist is languishing so, why their bones are shaking and their soul is struck with terror. We do not know exactly what is causing them to grieve. What was lost. What made them so weary, so afraid of dying. Why their bed is flooded, their couch drenched with tears. We do not know what great change happened in the world of the Psalmist that caused them to experience so much fear and uncertainty, lamenting, how long, O Lord, how long?
But living in 2020, we can certainly relate.
Notice that the Psalmist is not afraid to reveal their grief. There is no holding back. There’s no masking the pain, no pretending to be strong because others might think they are weak. Things are about as bad as they can be. Their eyes are wasting away with grief. And they are brutally honest about it.
I believe this is a great reminder for us that is okay to grieve what we have lost. It is okay to grieve the uncertainty. And its is good to grieve openly and honestly.
However, as the Apostle Paul once said, we grieve, but we do not grieve without hope. And here, it is the honest, grieving Psalmist who also reminds us that even when our eyes are wasting away from grief, our souls are struck with terror, there is hope.
Notice the change in tone beginning with verse 8:
8 Depart from me, all you workers of evil,
for the Lord has heard the sound of my weeping.
9 The Lord has heard my supplication;
the Lord accepts my prayer.
10 All my enemies shall be ashamed and struck with terror;
they shall turn back, and in a moment be put to shame.
Somewhere between seven and eight, something happened in the life of the Psalmist. New life is experienced. Blessed assurance, amazing grace, and a peace beyond all understanding are received.
Just like we do not know what exactly happened in the Psalmist’s world that caused them to express their grief so openly in verses one through seven, we do not know what exactly happened between verses seven and eight that turned their life around. We just know that something happened, and that something was miraculous. Somehow, someway, new life, inexplicable, yet certain, came. Somewhere between verses seven and eight, Divine Love and hope showed up. The Psalmist does not say exactly how God showed up, but we can certainly take some good guesses.
Perhaps people from all over the Psalmist’s world came together, realizing that despite their differences, they were all connected, they were intrinsically dependent on one another. Perhaps they came together to truly love their neighbors as themselves, to do unto others as they would have others do unto them. They came together and sacrificed much, valuing people more than anything else.
Yes, the workers of evil were still working. Some people, I am certain, behaved selfishly, hording essential supplies. Some behaved fearfully purchasing more weapons. Some, I am sure, even in the name of God, struggled to put the well-being of the most vulnerable ahead of their self-interests and greed.
However, most of the people were workers of good and not evil. They shared necessities They chose people over politics. They chose their neighbors over money, as they chose the way of love over the way of fear.
And when they chose the way of love, when they began to look after one another, perhaps Liberals and Conservatives put aside their differences. Households of faith finally began to realize that their buildings were not that important because what the world needed was people to worship out in the the community with their service more than it needed people worshipping behind four walls in services.
So, maybe we do know what happened between verses seven and eight after all. The Holy One showed up. In different ways through different people, God came. Selfless, sacrificial, united love came.
This is how we can grieve honestly, yet grieve hopefully in this uncertain and frightening time.
I have heard many people say that when this pandemic is over, we will never be the same again.
Let’s pray that this is true.
Despite our differences, may we never forget that we are all connected and dependent on each other regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, sexuality, nationality, politics and religion.
As our healthcare professionals risk their lives to heal all who are brought to them; as our teachers find creative ways to love and teach their students; as police, firefighters and first responders continue to faithfully serve and protect; as people everywhere pick up and deliver medications and groceries to their neighbors; as we have witnessed that it is selflessness and not greed, that it is love and not fear, that will us through this crisis–may we continue to love our neighbors in such a way that the entire world will not only be healed of this virus, but it will be more kind, more just, more forgiving, and more unified.
We pray that the most vulnerable among us will be protected more. Science will be respected more. Truth will be upheld more. All people will be valued more. Gratitude and graciousness will be expressed more. Mercy will be shared more.
And when we face another crisis, when we face any adversity, may we always remember that it is okay to be afraid. It is okay to grieve, confident that being afraid and grieving does not mean we are weak. Because, with you help, we will be as strong as we have ever been, never allowing, even for one minute, our fear to shut out love, and our grief to diminish hope. Amen.