Several weeks ago I was speaking with someone who was feeling down and blah. He was perplexed by this experience because there wasn’t anything in particular that seemed to be causing these feelings. He has a stable job, rewarding family life, and ample financial resources. He couldn’t identify the source of the problem. He said things like this: “You know if my marriage were dreadful, I would understand why I feel this way. If I was grieving the loss of a close friend, I would expect this. If I were afraid of losing my job…” So went his perplexing lament.
When we feel down and despondent, we naturally look for a cause and when we can’t find it we wonder what is up. As I thought about this man and others (myself included), who are unsure why they unexpectedly feel burdened, I wonder if they are not seeing the whole picture. Could it be that the source of much anguish today is not a particular change in someone’s personal life, but our response to a whole host of troubling developments in our world?
For example, wouldn’t any sane human being be troubled by the sabre rattling going on right now between the United States and North Korea? Wouldn’t anyone who cares about our world be anxious about the possibility of a catastrophic war breaking out because these two countries can’t find a peaceful way forward? Or why wouldn’t the mass shooting in Las Vegas leave us full of anxiety? Why wouldn’t we expect that such a tragedy, let alone the daily deaths from gun violence, would be deeply troubling? Or why wouldn’t the political dysfunction in our country weigh heavily on us given all the challenges at hand? Shouldn’t the intractable, partisan nature of our political life, leave us feeling a certain amount of despair?
As social beings, we are connected to the world in which we live and therefore we shouldn’t be surprised that social trauma affects our overall well-being. As with our personal struggles, our ancestors in the faith would remind us that the only way to move forward is to bring our pain and grief to God. They would tell us to share our feelings with God, including our frustrations with God. If you are frustrated that God isn’t making things better, tell God. If you are frustrated that God isn’t acting in decisive ways, tell God. Like our ancestors in the faith we should pray “Why do you stand so far off, O Lord, and hide yourself in time of trouble (Ps. 10:1)?” Like our ancestors, we should beg God to act: “O God, do not be silent; do not keep still nor hold your peace, O God (Ps. 83:1).” Our ancestors would tell us that the only hope we have for processing our pain and moving on is to bring that pain to God.
Disciples of Jesus can’t divorce themselves from the world. They live in the world as it is. We shouldn’t expect our willingness to be connected to all of life to be easy. However, what we discover is that if we let God in on our anguish that will get us through.