“How do we hold in tension the truth of God’s goodness and love for justice with the reality of pandemic suffering?”
This question posed in The Justice Calling is a lingering question that I have and still struggle with daily. As I interact with the immense suffering around me, I honestly admit that I often cannot comprehend the “how” in this question. Soon, this overwhelming “how” turns into a heavy and piercing cry of “Why?”
And I know that I am not the only one who grapples with the “why’s” and “how’s” following this question. Every day, our eyes are opened to more and more of the corruption, the deep brokenness, and the injustice in and around ourselves in this world. We see broken relationships, the devastating effects of war and conflict, abandonment, illness, and inequality. The list goes on and on. We see the effects in ourselves. In our families. Our relationships. Our school. And especially as Perkins Fellows this academic year, we see it in our own backyards. And as we see, we question. We wonder. We doubt. And immediately following this, we feel. We feel the pain of suffering and often the pain of guilt as we question our faith and see our hope fade away.
And as we wrestle with this guilt and dissonance, we often respond in either two ways: we try to fix the brokenness in our lives with our own strength and solutions or attempt to walk away in an eruption of fear and anger.
Yet instead of walking away, the Lord invites us to come to Him. He welcomes our doubts, our fears, and our questions not in spite of our doubts, but in the midst of them. Though injustices make us ask the hard questions to God, He wants to hear them. He wants to hear our cries - even the cries that are directed to Him.
This is what lament looks like.
As the Perkins Fellows gathered recently, we discussed our beliefs and understanding of lament. We agreed that lament is not a betrayal of faith, but a bold demonstration of faith, an acknowledgement of who God is, with a determined mind and heart to draw near to Him instead of pulling away. And in this process, He gives us hope and a call to persevere by drawing near to Him.
God calls us to do this through constant prayer and lamentation, even while the suffering and corruption increases. We cry out to God and wait expectantly for God to fulfill His promise to reconcile and redeem what is broken. And as we lament and wait, we can rejoice and hold fast to the truth that there will be a time when we won’t have to lament any more, where we will no longer have to hope. When every tear is wiped from every eye through, the healing of this world will become an eternal reality in our communion with Christ. But in the meantime, we pray. We lament. We wait. And we listen. All because we know that God is present, that God listens and that God heals, rescues, and restores all things.
As a Perkins Fellow, Sarah serves weekly with the International Rescue Committee. This fall, she has been partnered with a Syrian family. Each week, Sarah drives the daughter to ballet practice. She writes: “It has been an absolute JOY to get to know this family and I have felt so incredibly blessed to have built a friendship with them. On my first day with them, they immediately welcomed me into their home and even invited me to sit down and have dinner with them: it has been so humbling to see how hospitable and enthusiastic they have been towards me…They have shared so much with me, from the joys of living in Charlottesville to the sorrows that they have been experiencing as refugees separated from the rest of their family in Syria, and it has been such a privilege to have earned the right to listen to and encourage them.”