Gratitude Day 644
Psalm 40:2 – He stooped down to lift me out of danger from the desolate pit I was in, out of the muddy mess I had fallen into. Now he’s lifted me up into a firm, secure place and steadied me while I walk along his ascending path.
“There will be times when, as a pastor, you will not have words. And these are the times when you simply must stutter,” said my seminary professor, Lyle.
Lyle taught about the Bible at the seminary that I attended; specifically, the New Testament. He knows more about the Bible than I ever will. One of his gifts is to take the complicated and nuanced portions of the Bible and turn them into relatable and understandable teachable moments for the seminary students who attend his classes.
Over 20 years ago, I was sitting in one of Lyle’s classes. This day, Lyle was being extremely specific about what he taught us. He was giving us permission to NOT have all the answers. To admit there are times when we have no words, as pastors. And to even have the audacity to say it aloud.
It was so life-giving to hear Lyle say this. And his words have stayed on the ready for over two decades.
And last week, I used them. At a memorial service for a 21-year-old young adult who had ended his life prematurely about a week earlier.
What could I say at his service? I chose to say this: “I have no words.” I took Lyle’s advice and stated the obvious, that I cannot explain why this awful event happened.
I shared during the service that I was confident people would leave the service feeling disappointed because I had not adequately answered their questions. Yet, I knew the One who could answer their questions was not me. I felt it was best to stay in my lane and not try to answer those questions way beyond my pay grade.
It is very humbling as a pastor and a person to admit there are so many things out of our control. Situations in which our words are grossly inadequate and feel very shallow. We try to come up with some words or thoughts or statements that might bring a little comfort to the grieving family. But I’m not sure my words did that day.
There are many things that happen in this world which we cannot explain. When possibly the best thing we can say is, “I have no words.” Too many times, I’ve tried to explain when possibly the best effort I could have put forward was to simply listen.
Psalm 40 reminds us that there will be desolate pits in our lives. Hard times. When we’re in a muddy mess, it may feel like God has left us and maybe even abandoned us.
But listen carefully to the rest of the verse from Psalm 40:2:
Now he’s lifted me up into a firm, secure place and steadied me while I walk along his ascending path.
There’s one place where we can find a firm and secure place. A place that where we will feel steadied, even when it does not feel very steady.
Yep, I know this is not always the answer we are looking for. We want something more specific and definable when bad things happen. Unfortunately, I cannot guarantee this will be forthcoming. What I can assure you of is that God will be with you. End of story.
This is where we can find peace and comfort. And yes, even hope.
As the memorial service ended, I felt unsure as to whether I had adequately conveyed the message that while I do not have answers, do not give up on God. It’s difficult to watch the family of a grieving young person try to hold it together. There are no adequate words so soon after a devastating loss.
As the last chosen song of the service played, a small addition to the music began to be heard. There were many young adults at the service. Former students who had been involved in drama and choir and band. They were humming along to the last song. Their little way to saying, “We’re here, God. Please be with us.”
Please be with us. Do you have some type of grief or disappointment going on in your life right now? Do you feel God has left you at the train station, all alone? Has something happened where you desperately want an answer and all you have felt is crickets? Are you in the middle of a muddy mess right now?
Please do not give up on God. God is there. God is with you. God may not be showing up exactly how you prefer or as you would think. But God is there, just waiting for you to reach out to God. Yes, I know you may not receive the answer you desperately desire. You may not feel the complete peace you long for. But when you aren’t able to be strong, then let God be your strength.
For a God who is always there, even in my muddy messes, I am grateful.
Dear God – You know the disappointment and hurt that I have experienced in my life. You know if I have been able to make any sense of it … or if I’m just in a muddy mess. Comfort me and demonstrate to me that You are very much with me and us. Please bring comfort and peace into my life. And help me know when to stutter and simply say, “I do not have words” when someone else is struggling. Amen.
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