The Anguish of Our Lent

NOTE: This is adapted from an article Bro. Darryl wrote for the Center for Congregational Ethics, for March 23, 2022, based on the daily lectionary reading of Psalm 39, entitled “The Anguish of Our Lent.”

Based on Psalm 39

No one chooses anguish, yet here we are. The anguish of Ukraine ushered in our Lenten season. We see the constant stream of images of the death and terror of the innocent by weapons of war and mass destruction. Millions of families are torn apart, ripped from their homes to flee to another world, or forced to stay and fight to the bitterest of endings. We turn our eyes away from the anguish, but it does not the stop the pain. In today’s reading, the psalmist chose a path of silence, lest he say too much in his anger and grief. Suffering in silence. Suffering alone. Not speaking to anyone. Not speaking to God. “But when I was silent and still, not even saying anything good, my anguish increased.” 

Anguish is always accompanied by the whispers of despair. Despair leads us down the darkest of paths. When grief is the loudest voice in the room, we have endless questions with no simple answers. The psalmist cries, “Show me, O Lord, my life’s end.” What is the point of my life? Then he remembers that life is already too short. “But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you.” With that declaration, the psalmist honestly unleashes his anger toward God by finally speaking out, “…for you are the one who has done this.” Why does God not make it all stop? An honest conversation with God, and trusted others, begins the healing. Anguish without hope is despair.

The inscription at the heading of Psalm 39 implies that this personal lament of anguish was to be sung as a corporate act of worship. Can you imagine singing a song like this on Sunday morning? We see the images of the Ukrainian people worshipping in bombed churches and refugee shelters. It is a reminder that, strong as we may think we are, the people of faith need healthy opportunities to express their own anguish, grief, and anger together.

How are we listening for the emotional silence of those around us? How are we providing opportunities for honest conversations for the anguished and distressed? How do we acknowledge the anguish of today in our Lenten worship?

Our hope of mercy and justice is built on God’s past faithfulness. We know about Easter.

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