This week, we will reflect on the saying, “God won’t give you more than you can handle.” I have only been serving at this church for a relatively short while, but I have already had the honor of listening to so many of you share your stories with me as a pastor. Day after day, I am overwhelmed by the pain, suffering and injustice so many of you have known. It is definitely more than I could handle and I stand in awe of all of you as you continue to choose life, hope and joy in the midst of such challenges.
In a very deep sense, this experience and my own pain have led me to believe in the fact that through God’s grace, love, redemption—alongside the support of community—there is hope even in the moments we feel we cannot handle. My problem is that I often avoid vulnerably sharing my pain with God, or in my community. Do any of you relate to this?
As we approach the celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr., I couldn’t help but recall that this great follower of Christ had moments of doubt where he felt God was giving him and so many of God’s people more than they could handle. Rather than attributing the pain, suffering and injustice he and his African-American brothers and sisters encountered to God, he had a way of telling the truth about the things that seemed hard to handle. This, I believe, is how God used him. As he told the truth, the lies that oppressed others were revealed for what they were and people were liberated because they no longer felt alone in their struggle.
As we learn to be truth-tellers, sometimes revealing how hard life can be, I believe God can use us in great ways too. I have found the Psalms so helpful as I learn to be more honest about the things in my life I feel I can’t handle. Here are two that resonated with me this week. Psalm 6:
1 Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger
or discipline me in your wrath.
2 Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am faint;
heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony.
3 My soul is in deep anguish.
How long, Lord, how long?
4 Turn, Lord, and deliver me;
save me because of your unfailing love.
5 Among the dead no one proclaims your name.
Who praises you from the grave?
6 I am worn out from my groaning.
All night long I flood my bed with weeping
and drench my couch with tears.
7 My eyes grow weak with sorrow;
they fail because of all my foes.
8 Away from me, all you who do evil,
for the Lord has heard my weeping.
9 The Lord has heard my cry for mercy;
the Lord accepts my prayer.
10 All my enemies will be overwhelmed with shame and anguish;
they will turn back and suddenly be put to shame.
1 Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord;
2 Lord, hear my voice.
Let your ears be attentive
to my cry for mercy.
3 If you, Lord, kept a record of sins,
Lord, who could stand?
4 But with you there is forgiveness,
so that we can, with reverence, serve you.
5 I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits,
and in his word I put my hope.
6 I wait for the Lord
more than watchmen wait for the morning,
more than watchmen wait for the morning.
7 Israel, put your hope in the Lord,
for with the Lord is unfailing love
and with him is full redemption.
8 He himself will redeem Israel
from all their sins.
So this is my challenge for you this week. Take time to tell God and trusted friends in your community about the things in your life that feel difficult to handle. Write your own lament—an honest and heartfelt plea—inviting God to help you and help those in your community, our nation and our world as we walk through times that are difficult to handle. And do this with the same hope that motivated Martin Luther King, Jr.:
“I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right temporarily defeated is stronger than evil triumphant.”
— from Dr. King’s Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Address, 1964
Rev. Katherine Ebling-Frazier
Pastor of Prayer