“How long, Oh Lord? How long must I bear pain in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all day long?”
— Psalm 13:1a,2 (NRSV)
The expression of lament, calling out to God in anguish, weaves throughout the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures and, indeed, all of humanity. In times of sorrow, distress or fear, humans have called out to God, wondering why there is pain, what is the cause of their distress, how long it will last.
From Job, questioning God’s purpose and presence, to the disciples wondering how Jesus could fall asleep and leave them to perish in a sinking boat, to Jesus crying out to God on the cross, we find words to voice our own anguish in times of distress.
When I turned on my television this morning, I heard similar cries, as the story of nine lives taken scrolled across the screen. In my heart, the words “How long, Oh Lord?” came through the grief over yet another violent and senseless act of hatred. In times like these, we cry out to God and ask God to please do something!
Yet, I must also wonder, even as we cry out to God, asking how long, asking God to do something to fix the wrongs in this world, is God looking back at us and asking, “How long?” How long will we continue to allow violence to be glorified, and seen as an answer to our conflicts? How long will we teach our children more about difference than about love, more about hatred than about peace?
While we are called to trust in God and know that the Creator continues to work in and through the world and through us, we also have a responsibility to act. Micah 6:8 reminds us that our job is to “do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with our God.” We are called to walk (humbly!) with God, not sit around waiting around for God to “fix it.” We are called to be involved in the world.
To cry out to God, to recognize our own anguish and that of others, to recognize the injustice and violence of our world is a good first step. However, even as the events in Charleston currently take a center stage, we know that before too long the coverage will wane, the attention will fade, and we will go on with our lives as usual — until the next senseless act of hateful violence fills our screens.
Will we sit around and passively wait, wondering why God doesn’t just “fix it?” Or can we seek to be a part of God’s kingdom on earth, by insisting on justice instead of violence, kindness instead of hatred, and walking humbly with our God and our neighbor, too.