I hear our longing as a people right now. Even though we are in the season of Easter, it feels like we are still in Lent. We are groaning and crying out in our shared global suffering. We are facing uncertainty, loss, grief, and isolation. There is a stripping away of many of our human securities. In many ways our longings are confronting our spiritual poverty, where we come to realize our utter dependence on God. It is in such moments, when we might feel helpless to change our situation, that we sense ourselves crying out for someone to help us, desperate for a light to enter the darkness.
I invite us, no, I urge us to point our longings toward God. It is in our crying out to God that we allow God to enter into our darkness and meet us in our time of need.
Our Christian faith has a long history of people crying out to God in times of darkness and people pointing their longings to God. Pope Francis reminds us in his general audience given on December 28, 2016, that “hoping against hope,” Abraham complained to the Lord. Abraham called out to God in the dark of night, exhausted from his journey and wondering when the promise God made about Sarah having a child might be fulfilled. Even though tired, discouraged, and alone, Abraham turned to God. We also see other people in Scripture crying out to God in their time of need, people such as Elijah sitting at the broom tree begging God to take his life because of the lack of food and water (1 Kings 19:4) or Job crying out to God, “I cry to you and you do not answer me” (Job 30:20).
In the Gospels we see people crying out to Jesus and offering their longings to him. The man with the withered hand stretches out his hand to Jesus, longing to be healed (Mark 3:1–6). The woman suffering from hemorrhages turns her longing to the source of her healing by reaching out to touch the hem of Jesus’ cloak (Mark 5:25–34). Bartimaeus, whom Jesus encounters on the road to Jericho, cries out, “Son of David, have mercy on me” (Mark 10:47).
The ultimate example of pointing our longings to God comes from Jesus himself, in the garden and on the Cross. In the garden, we hear Jesus begging God to let the cup pass. On the Cross, Jesus’ aching heart cries out to God, “Why have you abandoned me?”
Crying out to God invites God into our suffering. It turns the darkness we are facing to our source of light. God provides for us in our time of suffering and meets us in it. While we may not have our prayers answered in the way we long for them to be answered, God gives us what we need to face what is in front of us, just as God gave Jesus what he needed to make it through his Passion and Death. We might be given wisdom to protect ourselves or comfort in our loneliness and grief or perseverance to endure what we are going through or inexplicable peace within, reminding us that God is with us. We also might be given clarity of action for our next right steps.
Just as Abraham did, “Sometimes our only option is to look up at the stars and to trust God” (Pope Francis, On Hope). May we go to God with all our longings. May we cry out to God. May this crying out open our hearts to God in ways we cannot imagine so the Holy Spirit can pour graces into us and inspire our actions in this time of need.
Journey with me in the online retreat, Overwhelmed No More, May 4 through June 12, 2020.