incline thine ear to my cry;
Good news seems hard to come by. That’s likely due to paying too much attention to “current events” versus the Eternal Event of the Good News of Jesus Christ.
Of course, current events do matter. Only hearts of stone can ignore the human suffering from the recent violence and tragedy overflowing from the abyss of human depravity and sin: the brutal slaughter of civilians by Hamas; the killing of eighteen in Lewiston, Maine by a mentally-disturbed resident; the deaths of civilians from rocket attacks in Israel and the Gaza Strip and in Ukraine. Closer to home, a 6-year old of a Muslim family was fatally shot by a man who wanted to kill Muslims after the Hamas attack; and the weekly killing of young Chicagoans by other young Chicagoans with guns.
In each such incident, the lives of survivors are shattered, trauma sets in, and the shadow of evil clouds out the light of life. Parents grieve for slain children, spouses for lost spouses; funerals are haunted by the spectre of the cruelty of violence. The media reports some facts but can explain little if anything ultimately about “why.” The evil is real and man on his own has no cure.
The wounds retained by the living at best may be partially healed, leaving scars. At worst, wounds fester and develop into deeper wounds, spiraling into depression, addiction, even loss of life. The therapy on offer for many is a bandage, which can soothe symptoms but not ultimately heal.
The most common thought for many must be, “Where is God?” How God, as they conceive him, fits into what they’ve just experienced, is out of reach.
Thinking about such things sent me back to an article by Stephen Muse published ten years ago in Touchstone: “No Dead Man’s Prayer: on the Suffering of Faith & the Paradox of Psalm 88.” It is the darkest of psalms in the sense that there is only the thinnest hope, glimpsed in the beginning address: “O Lord, God of my salvation…” But this is followed hard by a catalog of complaints and sufferings often attributed to God: “You have put me in the depths of the pit….You have caused my companions to shun me…” and the psalm ends with darkness.
The history of Israel does not run from glory to glory, although glory does break through. And when it does, it is a glory that shines as a fixed reference point, a glory that will not be denied, the source of the sure promises of redemption and salvation that will be fulfilled while all the dross and evil of this world will be consumed, when God himself “will wipe every tear from their eyes.” The world without God is simply dark.
The skeptics and the atheists call this pie-in-the-sky. But there are those among the living today who know it is true. They have suffered abuse, trauma, affliction, heartache and loss, but found genuine healing in the never-waning love of Christ that shines through the Scriptures, the Psalms, the hymns, and the lives of others and saints in the company called the Church. They have faith, as Stephen Muse wrote: “… real faith is more like what a recovering crack addict once told me, ‘You don’t know you have faith until faith is all you’ve got.’”
Sometimes we are not strong enough to get help. Faith is hard. We feel paralyzed, unable to act. We might identify with the paralytic in Mark, who was lowered by his friends through a hole in the roof into the jam-packed room in which Jesus was preaching. “And when Jesus saw their faith” he announced the forgiveness of the paralytic’s sins, then said, “Rise, take up your bed and walk.” The paralytic had just enough faith to submit to his friends’ desperate attempt to see him made whole.
If we have little faith at times, we are surrounded by eternal friends in Christ. We can reach out to others who trust Christ. We can trust in Christ’s own faith and cling to him. Hurt, wounded, angry, confused—we can enter where two or three are gathered in Christ’s name, a church where the Psalms are prayed. Listen to the Gospel. Hear and say the words spoken by so many in the Gospels and throughout the world for millennia: Kyrie, eleison! Lord, have mercy! For he is philanthropos, the Lover of Mankind. With him we find mercy in the darkest of times.
This article by James M. Kushiner was first published in the November 2023 Touchstone email newsletter. Copyright ©2023 by Fellowship of St. James. Posted here by permission.
- James M. Kushiner is editor emeritus of Touchstone and Director of Publications at the Fellowship of St. James.
- Touchstone, “A Journal of Mere Christianity”, is published by the Fellowship of St. James and focuses on that traditional core of the historic Christian faith which unites us across denominations and ecclesial traditions.