by Carol Dixon
A Psalm of lament and praise in a time of coronavirus
How shall we praise you, Lord, our God?
When we are locked down,
how shall we praise you?
When the doors to your house are barred,
and your people cannot assemble?
When those desperately in need of money and work
cannot even wait in the market-place?
When we have to circle round people in the street,
and to queue for shops maintaining safe distance?
When we can only communicate
by hearing on the phone,
or seeing on the screen;
or digitally messaging,
or even just waving through a window?
When we cannot meet our parents and children,
grandparents and grandchildren,
or other family members and friends?
When we cannot touch them in their flesh and blood,
to know they are really alive?
How shall we praise you?
How, like Thomas, shall we not see yet believe
that your son is raised among us?
How shall we praise you?
How can I praise you, Lord?
Are you plaguing us with this virus
to punish us because we have all done wrong,
or thought wrongly,
or felt wrongly,
or just been wrong?
If so, why do only some die,
and those, apparently, the ones who are the least worst or most caring amongst us?
Or are you trying to teach us a lesson?
If so, why is it so hard to learn?
And how are we to find the answer
when we do not even know the question?
Or are you still the same loving God,
coming to us in our sufferings
and opening up the way to new life in Jesus?
Lord, I will try to praise you.
Through gritted teeth,
I will try to praise you.
I will try to remember that you have created all things,
and this virus is part of your creation.
I will try not to hate it
but seek to mitigate its harm.
I will try to keep myself and others safe.
I will work to pray for them
and seek to help in whatever way I can.
Lord, when I cannot pray or worship
help me be aware of all your people
and your saints and angels
hovering around me,
lifting me up.
When I feel alone,
let me feel you near me,
even if only for a moment that enables me to go on.
Let me hear you say
“Peace be with you”.
Lord, I will praise you.
Let all the peoples praise you. ©Revd Kenneth Howcroft (Used with permission )[Methodist 50 days Summer Reflections]
Recently, I came across the above awesome modern Psalm written during the current crisis. I found it very honest and powerful and it reminded me of how we need to be straight with God in our prayers – not wallowing in despair but truthfully sharing with God how we are feeling.
One of the Psalms in the Old Testament that spoke to me recently in my prayer time when I felt that the Coronavirus pandemic is never ending is Psalm 13. John Bell’s ‘How long, O Lord’ is a call for help that God in his mercy hears our cry.
The second Psalm that resonated with me is Psalm 137. This anguished cry from the heart is by someone unwillingly dragged off into exile in a foreign land, having witnessed the total destruction of his homeland and the death of many of his friends and relatives. The pain and anger in the words is almost palpable.
While I cannot begin to imagine how terrible that must be, this Psalm gave me great comfort and hope in a time of pain and difficulty in my own life. Some years ago I was laid aside with an illness that forced me to rest every afternoon in bed for almost 2 years and I had to give up most of my usual activities including my work as a lay preacher and co-ordinator of our church folk group. I felt as though I was in exile in a strange land. Yet it was in this time of disconnection from the familiar that I learned to draw near to God in new ways and began to ‘sing the Lord’s song in a strange land’ as God gave me the gift of hymn writing.
In grief and loss, I cry to you,
And by your cross, you see me through;
You hold me up, bearing my pain,
I drink your cup and live again.
When I am weak you strengthen me,
And as I seek your face, I see
You weep my tears, share my heartbreak,
And all my fears from me you take.
Jesus my Lord, reach out your hand,
Just say the word and I will stand,
Wounded and pained, my heart I yield,
Broken and drained, yet I am healed. © Carol Dixon
(music available from firstname.lastname@example.org)
Jesus himself spoke honestly to God and to those around him and his statement ‘I am the way, the truth and the life’ encourages us as we follow in his footsteps by the way we live our lives. If we are truthful when we speak to God and others, ‘speaking the truth in love’ and are willing to look for life-giving hope in dark situations, then the life that was in Jesus will live in us and guide us on our way with him.
Is there someone you know who needs God’s mercy today in their lives to whom you can bring the love and peace of God in this pandemic, through prayer or action, to lead them on the path from despair to hope? Is God calling you to walk the way of Jesus bringing truth and life in the Holy Spirit into their lives – and yours?