Sometimes when I’m praying it’s helpful to grab a handful of colored pens or sharpies and kind of doodle and jot down words. It helps me to stay focused, to listen, and to really dwell in my thoughts and feelings. My journals are full of lime green arrows, indigo verses and phrases, and purple outlines, exclamation points, and stars.
A week ago at church we talked about lament. This isn’t a popular topic on Sunday mornings – being angry, and especially being angry with God, isn’t something we’re comfortable admitting. But wow, there is something so freeing about being real with God, not having to ‘put on a good face.’ We were encouraged to pray out our hazard – our anger, our fear, our disappointment – to our God.
My immediate thought? “I’m going to need some new markers.”
Something’s telling me that if I really released it all to God, really said what I wanted to say, it might be ugly, it might be angry, and it might require black, maroon, and forest green. After all, there are struggles in my life and in my newsfeed that seem so unjust, so harmful, so evil… there’s really no way to pretty them up.
(If you’ve ever walked through some hard times, or if you’re ever overwhelmed with the evil of the world, you should check out the full sermon here. And that should include all of you—so yes, all of you should listen to this.)
What follows being honest with God in our struggle, is waiting on his help. This part may be harder than the first. How do we wait for help when we’re already worn out, disillusioned, and our hearts are turning cold?
We need to return to the one thing we know to be true. We need to trust in his love.
When we’re in the depths, and everything feels uncertain, this is the one thing we can return to. When our hearts are breaking, and our minds are full of questions, doubts, and fears, sometimes this is the only solid thing we can stand on, the only thing we can really trust… that God is LOVE.
In The Inner Voice of Love, priest and author Henri Nouwen writes this, “You have to trust the place that is solid, the place where you can say yes to God’s love even when you do not feel it. Right now you feel nothing except emptiness and the lack of strength to choose. But keep saying, ‘God loves me, God’s love is enough.’”
On Sundays at church, when I look around the room, I know the stories and heartaches behind many of the faces. And many of them know mine. And every week as we all shuffle through the communion line I watch each of these stories come forward and receive the gift of God’s love. And it’s beautiful. And it’s what sustains us.
So let's get crazy and use all the markers in the pack. Let’s be real about not just our hopes and desires, but also our heartaches and disappointments. Let’s offer them to God as the most honest prayer, and trust in his love.