Emily C. Heath
"Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord. Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy." - Psalm 130
My first call out of seminary was to a children's hospital. I was a chaplain in a pediatric emergency room, and I spent most of my time meeting families on what were often the worst days of their lives.
The staff at that hospital were all exceptional. Thanks to them, most of the children who came through the trauma bay doors survived, and even thrived. But that was not always the case. And, for each family, for at least a little while, there was fear and pain and uncertainty.
I would sit with anxious parents while they waited for news. I always felt that it was a holy privilege. And I saw some extraordinary friends who would come and sit with them too, and try to give comfort. But, from time to time, sometimes a well-meaning friend would try a little too hard to make everything alright.
You've heard some of the things they would say: "God meant this for a reason," or "God just needed another angel," or "God doesn't give you more than you can handle." It might have made the one saying it feel better for a minute, but it never seemed to help the parents much.
One of the things I love about the Psalms is that they do not try to make it all better. Instead, they give us honesty. The writers talk about grief and pain and doubt. And, as the Psalmist wrote in today's verse, sometimes they even called to God "out of the depths" on the worst days of their life.
One day I was sitting with a crying mother whose daughter was in surgery after an act of senseless violence. A clearly uncomfortable friend tried to comfort her by saying, "it's alright." The mother closed her eyes, began to cry harder, and started to shout, "It's not alright…it's not alright…"
And, though her daughter would later recover, at that moment it wasn't alright. And, just like the Psalms, hers was one of the most honest prayers I have ever heard.
Compassionate God, on those days when "out of the depths we cry to you o Lord," may you bless us with friends like the Psalmists, who are able to sit with us, and to cry out alongside of us. Amen.
Emily C. Heath is the pastor of West Dover Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, in West Dover, Vermont. She also serves as the chaplain of a local fire department, and as a speaker and writer on Christian faith and social justice.