With a Whisper or a Shout

Jeremiah 31:31-34; Psalm 51:1-12 – The 5th Sunday of Lent  – for March 25, 2012

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10)

Why doesn’t God answer my prayers?

Why doesn’t God heal my friend?

Why does God seem distant, absent or capricious?

This week I read the stunning words of the Old Testament prophet: Jeremiah claimed the Lord will “put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” Alleluia! The God who bequeathed the rock hard tablets of law to Moses preferred to touch the vulnerable heart of the human creation, and will forever forgive them of their sins. How compassionate! Soon after I read the tender words of the Psalms . . . “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.” Alleluia! The ancient psalmist gifted, from generation to generation, the joy of trusting God’s saving grace. How compassionate!

Then, why do we so often feel abandoned? Why has a person won the lottery, or had their sick child made whole and happy, or married the perfect soul mate while another experienced financial struggle, illness and fractured relationships?

Why is God distant? Absent! Capricious!

In the same week I read Jeremiah’s stunning declaration and the Psalmist’s tender requests, I met with Cathy*, the director of a local hospice’s Center for Grief & Healing. I volunteer at this hospice and needed information about one of their programs. Once my “business” was finished, Cathy asked a question. She knows I’m a pastor and sought my feedback about a struggle she sometimes experiences with grieving clients.

It’s easy to guess what she asked. I’ve already posed the questions alongside thoughts about God writing laws on the heart and placing a “new and right spirit” into humans.

Not always, but too often, Cathy counsels clients angry with God or church or both. They’ve read scripture or heard sermons that promised God would hear their anguished requests. Heal my child. Mend my broken soul. Ease my spouse’s suffering. And yet nothing changed . . . the child died, their soul splintered further, pain wracked and wrecked a loving partner to the bitter end.

They sit in Cathy’s office and, with a whisper or a shout, wonder, “Why is God _______?” Distant? Absent? Capricious?

“How can I help them answer that?” Cathy asked. Continue reading →