honest questions and heart-felt compassion

This week has been full of pain and questions as like so many others we have continued to hold Syria in our hearts. And as we have prayed in response to the news from Kenya and the related conflict in Somalia – and for Pakistan (attack on a church and earthquake).

DSC04828 - Copy

We have felt some of the shock of what is happening; we have tried to stand alongside the people of these nations and mourn with them; we have cried out for God’s protection, peace and breakthrough to come to their countries.

And we have asked Jesus to continue to give us his compassion so we can keep sharing his heart for them rather than forget about them in the midst of the pressing distractions of our every day lives.

At times that’s made whole days – as well the prayer times – uncomfortable. It’s kept the questions that get raised close at all times, and the emotions that get stirred painfully present.

Yesterday afternoon, Liz spent the afternoon delivering a workshop on creative and heart-felt intercession to a group of young adults starting a gap year with her church.

At it, she had a conversation with someone about how to deal with the emotions that praying and writing about some of the issues we focus on brings up… are we able to pack them up at the end of a prayer time? And if not… how do we deal with carrying them throughout the day?

How do we remember and rejoice in the truth that Jesus is Lord, and do everything that we need to get done, but avoid glibly returning to business as usual?

These are good questions and they don’t have straightforward answers.

If we choose to look at what is happening in our world; if we choose to share God’s heart – we will feel broken. And often we will continue to feel this way even when we turn to focus on other things.

Although we look at everything through the lens of indescribable hope that is who Jesus is, what he is done, and what he continues to do… we are also looking at suffering, violence and oppression – both in the headlines and in the conversations we have with people from all walks of life who come in to share their experiences and pray about them.

We believe we are called to be a people of irrepressible hope. But we also want to be real about the darkness and suffering that we see.

And we want to remain emotionally present to the people experiencing it – and to our own struggles… even while we pray for transformation, and the perseverance to keep softened hearts.

We are called to share in Jesus’ suffering as well as his resurrection life. To choose to do this is sometimes hard.

But in the midst of it is the incredible comfort is that he is sharing in ours – and in theirs. And we are mirroring him when we stand alongside our brothers and sisters and share in some small part their grief.

There is no one weeping over Kenya, Pakistan and Somalia more than the one who intercedes for them day and night before his Father’s throne. But when we look at the suffering and the weeping of the people affected, it can feel too much for us to join him – and them… and then it is tempting to ask what difference will it make?

But of course we know it makes every difference – because to connect is to pray, and to pray is to know God is at work – and to know and trust he is at work is to partner with him in bringing change.

Sometimes we can be scared of our emotions – especially unresolved ones. But it’s vital we keep our hearts soft towards God and people… sometimes we can be scared of the questions we have in the face of such suffering, but we must keep asking them of God – like the psalmists did – rather than trying to hide from them…

Because from this place – the place of honest questions and heart-felt compassion – comes a different kind of prayer.

Can we, as Jesus asked his disciples, watch and wait with him – and those who grieve – a little while longer?

One day there will be no more pain. But until then – alongside our confidence in resurrection hope breaking through now – let’s be willing to be present to the suffering when we don’t see the transformation we’re longing for.

A prayer in the midst of tragedy

Lord Jesus, keep us here a while longer we pray,
Emotionally present – as you are –
To the violence we have witnessed only at arms length,
The people who have been killed whose faces we have seen but do not know,
And to the ones who will cry long after the world turns away.

Lord Jesus, keep us broken a while longer we pray,
Remembering constantly – as you do –
The value of each precious person dead, grieving or frightened,
The turmoil of nations such as Somalia, Kenya and Pakistan so in focus today
And the repurcussions that will continue long after the world forgets.

Lord Jesus, keep us prayerful a while longer we ask,
Watching and diligent – as you are –
For the sake of each precious, unique child of yours caught up in this pain,
The protection of everyone who is vulnerable – especially those who own your name –
And for you who will never stop interceding for change.

Lord Jesus, keep us endlessly hopeful we pray,
Expectant and faith filled – in you –
That your comfort, peace and transformation will come to these people and their nations
And your kingdom of justice and love will keep advancing
For you are always working for good and one day there will be no more tears and no more reasons to cry.

Comments are closed.