Morning Thanks

Garrison Keillor once said we'd all be better off if we all started the day by giving thanks for just one thing. I'll try.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Sunday Morning Meds--Why is there pain?

You kept my eyes from closing; I was too troubled to speak.” Psalm 77

I’m embarrassed to admit it, but somewhere in the notebooks lined up beside me, there exists some scribbled pages I filled up years ago when I was, like Othello, smitten with a nearly terminal case of jealousy that had zero foundation--so baseless, so whacky, that those pages expose the utter fool I was.

I don’t know what prompted the green-eyed monster to roar; but I remember coming downstairs late one night, sleepless as Asaph, and scribbling jolts of frustration into that notebook. I probably thought wringing out my frustration on the pages would exhaust me—well, exhaust my sin—in a way that nothing else could. Writing as therapy.

And it works that way sometimes. Write it out, I figured. Wrestle it down on a page.

Today, the whole business is totally absurd, so absurd it's funny. Sort of.

Somewhere down here I’ve got the pages to prove I was crazy. Trust me, I’m not going to look. I remember, and that’s embarrassing enough. Sleepless in Sioux Center.

That night, I was, like Asaph, “too troubled to speak.” When I read that verse right now, what comes back to me is that crazy, late-night bout of insane jealousy. What a fool. And what a sinner, wrath holding down its well-earned laurels as one of the Seven Deadly Sins.

Why did I go crazy? Pride, probably. Not getting what I wanted and thought I needed. Pride, wrath, jealousy—wrap those up tight and they’re lethal enough to keep anybody awake.

But that night has nothing to do with this psalm and Asaph’s distress because I was the one who “kept my eyes from closing.”

Asaph’s sleeplessness doesn't appear to be self-inflicted. Many know what he's feeling far better than I do. Three years have passed since it happened, but somewhere in Newtown, Connecticut, right now, I'm guessing, very early in the dark morning some Mom or Dad is still mourning the death of a precious child and asking God why on earth he allowed a 20-year-old kid with guns to walk into an elementary school and kill 20 first-graders and six teachers. Some place, probably even lots of places this early morning, there are more tears than sleep, wastebaskets of crumpled Kleenex.

Asaph, in all his humanness, answers one of the toughest questions we’ll ever ask in a way almost all of us do at one time or another: if God so loves the world, why do people suffer? Why is there ISIS? Why did he allow Dachau? a Wounded Knee? a Sandy Hook? a tsunami? how is it that tornadoes can rain from the sky? Why is there pain?

Asaph says, “You kept my eyes from closing; I was too troubled to speak.” You were the cause of my anxiety, he says, somehow thankfully.

I appreciate his testimony in Psalm 77, but I’m not so sure he got it all right. But, honestly, does anyone ever get it right here in the vale of tears?

Sometimes we’re sleepless with divine mysteries that go and grow far, far beyond us.

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