Sorrow and Hope

It’s been a rough week.

And it’s because of Hurricane Harvey. And here’s a brief disclaimer: this blog post is probably for me more than anyone at church, but I pray that God will speak to you in some way through my struggle this week.

I grew up in South Texas – in Corpus Christi – and I’ve been struggling with not being back home to help provide support and comfort to those in need in the communities close to where I grew up. I’ve experienced at arms-length the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey after talking with friends and family, and seeing the pictures on the news. And my heart is heavy. I grieve for those who have lost everything due to the wind, rain, storm surge, and flooding. I pray that they might find the care and support they need right now, and the strength to live through what will likely be years of recovery. But that doesn’t seem like enough.

The Joy of Lament

I love that Scripture contains every human emotion, every feeling that we experience as we walk through life. This week I have found myself in the laments. There are many poems, songs, and words of lament in the Bible – one of the best places to find them is in the Psalms. These passages provide us with an insight into the grief and sorrow that we can experience – and with which we struggle. But one of the things that makes the laments we find in Scripture so powerful an expression of emotion is that most of the time, most of the time, the author of those words understands the existence of hope.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer; and by night, but find no rest. Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel. In you our ancestors trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them. To you they cried, and were saved; in you they trusted, and were not put to shame.

These words come from Psalm 22. You might recognize them by the first line, as these were some of the words that Jesus spoke from the cross. You might also notice that even after the person who wrote them asked why God had forsaken him, there is that glimmer of hope, “In you our ancestors trusted… and you delivered them.” This is the power of hope we have because of what God has done for us. We’ve experienced that gift time and again. So, while we might not find ourselves feeling very hopeful at any given moment, hope is there, hanging out in the back of our minds.

Crying Out To God

Another beautiful expression of sorrow and hope joined together is in Psalm 130:

Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord; Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy.
If you, Lord, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you.
I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits and in his word I put my hope. I wait for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.
Israel, put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love and with him is full redemption. He himself will redeem Israel from all their sins.

The power of the laments is to show us that no matter what we are dealing with, no matter what we feel, we can get brutally honest with God. The people who wrote these psalms spoke to God in the midst of their anger, their grief, their pain. They spoke to God. Even when the bottom dropped out, when life turned upside down, they spoke to God. They shared the reasons for their distress, and had hope that God would redeem them – would help them through the situation and show them once more the reasons we have to offer our praise.

How We Can Help People Impacted By Hurricane Harvey

Many people have asked me what we can do to help those affected by Harvey. If you can wait until January, I’ll be leading a team to do recovery work. If there is enough interest and we can gather the financial resources, my hope is that we can go many times, because the need will last for years to come.

Other ways you can help right now are:

  • Pray for those affected; those displaced; those who have lost homes, belongings, and the sense of normalcy that we take for granted. Pray for the first responders – the police, firefighters, EMTs, the National Guard troops who are working tirelessly to help those in need. Pray for the neighbors who are helping one another, and those who have shown up to assist because it is the right thing to do.
  • Give of your resources to help those in need. The best way to do so is to donate to the United Methodist Committee on Relief. 100% of your donation to UMCOR goes to the work of recovery. You can send a check to church, and write “UMCOR Advance # 901670” in the memo line. Or you can click here to donate. Be sure to fill out the part of the form that credits our church with your gift.

What not to do:

  • Don’t donate items unless specifically requested. The large influx of stuff is often called the “second disaster” because aid organizations lack the space and the volunteers to sort through and distribute donations. Money given through a credible aid organization like UMCOR is the best way to donate. I’ll communicate any needs that UMCOR announces – they have decades of experience doing disaster relief work. And while UMCOR is not always the first group to the scene, they are usually the last to leave, staying in a community until all the work is done.
  • Don’t decide to show up on your own to help. Emergency responders and aid organizations will let us know when it is safe to come and lend assistance. I’ll keep you posted on this as well. The United Methodist Church has a wonderful network and system established so that we can provide the best assistance possible to those in need.

I want to leave you with this video I found this morning. It is a new song by the Christian band Rend Collective, called “Weep With Me”. I hope you take the time to watch it, and to join me in whatever way you can to support those who have been impacted by Hurricane Harvey.

Grace and peace,

Pastor Peter

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