Hear my prayer, O Lord, let my cry come to you. Do not hide your face from me in the day of my distress. Incline your ear to me; answer me speedily in the day when I call. For my days pass away like smoke, and my bones burn like a furnace. - Psalm 102:1-3 (NRSV)
I don’t remember ever having the flu as a child, but I got it 3 times in 6 years as an adult, and it was awful. I suddenly understood how people can just up and die from it.
It isn’t just the strain on the body’s systems, the secondary pneumonia that can happen, the pressured vital organs. Flu does something to the spirit. It takes the sturdy skein of human will, and – cackling like a villain – stretches it on a grim spinning wheel until it is so fine it threatens to snap. In the worst of my illness (and let me be clear: from a medical point of view, I was nowhere near dying), I felt that I could literally just let go, float away on a gentle breeze and into the arms of God.
The last time I had flu, my bedroom was far away from the hub of our new house. Too weak to move, I cried out to my family for tea, ibuprofen, and attention. It took all the strength I had, and felt like ages until someone heard me. But they came.
The psalmist normalizes crying out, again and again. If we cry out, and God doesn’t answer, it doesn’t mean we are not worthy of attention. It just means we need to keep crying. Perhaps a little louder.
Cry when you are sick, and cry when you are sad. Cry for yourself, and cry for others. Hold on to that little thread of will, let it anchor you here, even when you feel like it would be easier just to let go. If it seems that God doesn’t hear you – someone else might.
God, don’t be indifferent to my pain. Our pain. Come quickly. Amen.
Molly Baskette is Senior Minister of First Congregational Church UCC in Berkeley, California, and the author of the best-selling Real Good Church, Standing Naked Before God, and her newest baby, Bless This Mess: A Modern Guide to Faith and Parenting in a Chaotic World.