“How long, O Lord? How long must I bear pain in my soul? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?” – Psalm 13:1-2
On Easter Day, we enjoyed a festive dinner at the home of a Palestinian Christian woman in Beit Jala, near Bethlehem. The conversation skitted energetically from food to faith to the facts on the ground. At one point, our host spoke movingly about Jesus and her life of prayer. Someone asked what she talked about with Jesus. I don’t know what pieties we expected, but I think we were all surprised when she said with sudden passion, “I know he suffered for us, in our place. What I want to ask him is why we have to suffer. Why we still have to suffer so much!”
She moved on quickly in a more conventional vein—she trusted him, felt his presence, couldn’t have made it through the hardships without him. She never returned to the searing subject of why. I wondered if she thought she’d been too frank. Or if she wanted to shield us from the terror of that unanswerable question. We were guests, after all.
But exposure is always better than protection. We could have used more, not less. For the longer I live the more I’m persuaded that there are only two things that matter in this world, only these are real—unrelieved suffering and unrelenting compassion. A holy life is one that suspends itself like a brittle bridge between them, willingly between the anguish and the awe, the impermeable shadow and the encompassing light.
How long, O Lord? And why? And when? And how? And who? Amen.
Mary Luti is Interim Senior Pastor, Wellesley Village Church, Wellesley, Massachusetts.