An Advent Journey: Stop, Look, Listen – Day 7

“God, it seems you’ve been our home forever;
long before the mountains were born,
long before you brought earth itself to birth,
from ‘once upon a time’ to ‘kingdom come’ — you are GOD.
So don’t return us to mud, saying,
‘Back to where you came from!”
You’ve got all the time in the world —
whether a thousand years or a day,
it’s all the same to you.
Are we no more to you than a wispy dream,
no more than a blade of grass that springs up gloriously 
with the rising sun and is cut down without a second thought?
Your anger is far and away too much for us;
we’re at the end of our rope.
You keep track of all our sins; 
every misdeed since we were children
is entered in your books.
All we can remember is that frown on your face.
Is that all we’re ever going to get?
We live for seventy years or so 
(with luck we might make it to eighty),
and what do we have to show for it?
Toil and trouble and a marker in the graveyard.
Who can make sense of such rage,
such anger against the very ones who fear you?
Oh! teach us to live well!
Teach us to live wisely and well!
Come back, GOD —
how long do we have to wait —
and treat your servants with kindness for a change.
Surprise us with love at daybreak;
then we’ll skip and dance all the day long.
Make up for the bad times with some good times;
we’ve seen enough evil to last a lifetime.
Let your servants see what you’re best at —
the ways you rule and bless your children.
And let the loveliness of our Lord, our God,
rest on us, confirming the work that we do.
Oh, yes. Affirm the work that we do!”
— Psalm 90, The Message
Sounds like the psalmist has had a rough week. More likely, a rough few years. Can you relate to the very real emotions expressed in this remarkable song? These are core questions, aren’t they?
          Must we suffer like this forever?
          Where the heck are you?
          Our lives are like leaves, falling from the trees —
                    swept away like yesterday’s garbage . . .
                    when will you smile at us again, God?
          Have mercy, O LORD. Have mercy.

I’ve been struggling with some very hard news from dear friends as they grapple with a fresh, harsh diagnosis of leukemia for their beautiful toddler boy. And word from another friend, who is struggling to find ways to comfort someone whose child was violently killed. And our own moms’ slow fade from the planet. 

So sometimes, this is a song I need to sing, a lament I need to raise. There is a sense in which Advent is a time of mourning, I think. A time for recognizing that we live in a messed-up world, filled with too many messed-up people, including me. We live in a world that needs saving, day in and day out.

We ache for things to shift enough to provide some relief. I think that’s why the singer has chosen to use the image of God’s wrath or anger in this song. Because in the midst of the muck, it can sometimes make it easier to bear if we picture God as the source of it all. Then we can turn the blame in a clear direction. 

And we know that God is big enough to handle our fussing and fuming and wondering and worrying. And as the song draws to an end, the psalmist remembers the whole picture, the overwhelmingly reassuring picture that God is the God of loveliness and good work, the One who teaches us to live wisely and well. 

Even when it feels as though surely God must be angry with us, else why would we be suffering so much – even there, even then, it is good to come round home again. To acknowledge that God is the God who walks beside us, through thick and thin, through loveliness and horror, through joy and sorrow. In the grand scheme of things, our lives may indeed have the transience of falling leaves, BUT God sees those leaves as they fall, each and every one, and God has assigned each one a value beyond measure.

O LORD, there are days when all I want to do is shake my fist in your face and cry out for ‘mercy.’ And so I do. Mercy, LORD, mercy. Yet even as the words leave my lips, I recognize that they are, in reality, the very same word. For you are mercy, my God. Thank you, thank you.

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  1. Glenda Childers says

    Lamenting is hard and hard work, eh? Praying with you in your sadness amidst this joy of Christmas.

  2. Thank you, Glenda. Like the rest of life, it’s not all about sadness – it’s about walking the line between the sadness and the joy, letting both be real and okay. I appreciate your prayers, friend. Thank you.