Love and suffering are part of most human lives. Without any doubt, they are the primary spiritual teachers, more than any Bible, church, minister, sacrament, or theologian.
Suffering can lead us in either of two directions: it can make us very bitter and cause us to shut down, or it can make us wise, compassionate, and utterly open, either because our hearts have been softened, or perhaps because we feel as though we have nothing more to lose.
To “let go and let God” is to put yourself into the hands of God, even for just a little while, until the challenges of life are more bearable.
—Diana L. Hayes
Right where you are, in the hurt and sorrow, that’s right where the insight is, that’s where the answer is, that’s where the wisdom is. The transformation is there, the rebirth is there. And you’re not alone.
Once we step out of our own way, into the dark and empty vessel of the soul, “an ineffable sweetness” will begin to rise, permeating and nourishing the quiet earth, uncovering a resurrection we never dreamed possible: a dazzling darkness, a radiant night, a revolutionary newness of being.
Jesus said we must go inside the whale’s belly for a while. Then and only then will we be spit out on a new shore and understand our call, our place, and our purpose.
In the ancient tradition of lament, this prayer from Latina activist and pastor Rev. Sandra Maria Van Opstal invites us to share with God our heartbreak at the world’s suffering, and ask “How long, O Lord?”
How long, Lord?
How long must we cry out?
How long must the vulnerable sit silent as bombs,
guns, cages, natural disasters threaten lives?
How long must we hear the agonizing silence of so
many in the church?
How long, Lord?
Are you listening? Yes? You do! You do? You do
see us! You do hear us!
(insert time to ugly cry)
We believe you are at work bringing peace. True
peace—flourishing, wholeness, and well-being. . . .
We believe and we feel overwhelmed—sometimes
it is hard to believe that you actually care about
the injustice and suffering. When we don’t see
your work. When we sense the apathy from
the church. When we feel small and forget that
we were designed to be different and make
When we feel overwhelmed by darkness in the
world—the violence, injustice, poverty,
Give us hope not to be overcome.
Give us eyes to see your goodness for our world.
Give us the strength to hold the pain of injustice in
our world and faith that it will end.
Give us courage to be honest with ourselves about
why and how we are doing justice.
We believe. So. Empower us to disrupt our broken
thinking by learning truth from diverse leaders.
Enable us to discover the beauty of justice and
inspire action in others. Embolden us to display
your goodness in the world. . . .
Sandra Maria Van Opstal, “A Liturgy of Longing,” in A Rhythm of Prayer: A Collection of Meditations for Renewal, ed. Sarah Bessey (New York: Convergent Books, 2020), 29–31. Used with author’s permission.
Explore Further. . .
Read Barbara Holmes on communal lament.
Learn more about this year’s theme Nothing Stands Alone.
Meet the team behind the Daily Meditations.
Image credit: Carrie Grace Littauer, Untitled 2, Untitled 3, Untitled 9 (details), 2022, photographs, Colorado, used with permission. Jenna Keiper & Leslye Colvin, 2022, triptych art, United States. Click here to enlarge image.
Image inspiration: The hollow feeling when loved ones are no longer present, like holes in a log. The pain of a thorn piercing skin. This tree has suffered and witnessed suffering. We too have suffered and witness suffering.
Prayer for our community:
God, Lord of all creation, lover of life and of everything, please help us to love in our very small way what You love infinitely and everywhere. We thank You that we can offer just this one prayer and that will be more than enough, because in reality every thing and every one is connected, and nothing stands alone. To pray for one part is really to pray for the whole, and so we do. Help us each day to stand for love, for healing, for the good, for the diverse unity of the Body of Christ and all creation, because we know this is what You desire: as Jesus prayed, that all may be one. We offer our prayer together with all the holy names of God, we offer our prayer together with Christ, our Lord, Amen.