Pastor’s Corner: How Long O Lord

On April 20, 1999 I walked home from school like I did every other day. Along the way, I stopped at my mother’s bookstore hoping to get some money, so I could buy a snack at the gas station a few blocks further down my route home. I was surprised to find my grandfather working. Grandpa was supposed to be at a Rockies game in Denver that day. They weren’t going to the game, because something had happened down there. There was a shooting, which wasn’t that uncommon. However, this time it was at a school, Columbine High School.


On April 21, 1999, fear and sadness joined us in the classroom. Eventually, the sadness went away, and the fear disappeared to an extent. Recently, fear hit a little too close to home for me and many others. On Nov. 5, 2017, a small-town pastor was killed with 25 members of his flock as they gathered to worship and sing praises to God that morning in Sutherland, Texas. Fear and sadness has accompanied me once again these past few weeks.

In the book Habakkuk, we hear the prophet cry out, “O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not listen?” (1:2). The laments in the bible were not something I really knew about as a teenager. As a young adult, the words, “How long?! from scripture have become a common refrain. The barrage of mass shootings, terrorist attacks, natural disasters, have accompanied the struggles of life for many. Things that do not always make the headlines, like the loss of loved ones, or battles with chronic illness, cancer, mental illness, addiction, domestic violence, sexual harassment, equally deserve lament as well. And after hearing the news of each one of these things, I pray “How Long?!”

I wish I knew about the laments as a teenager, because now as adult and a minister I think they would have brought me comfort in a time when I turned into my fears. The beauty in it all of this, is that we can cry out to God without fear of retribution. We can cry and curse in the face of our personal struggles and global tragedies and still be faithful followers of God. Scripture gives us proof of this. In the books like the Psalms, we read the wide variety of expressions the human life, not just praise.

We don’t have to feel ashamed by our anger or disappointment in God. However, we shouldn’t let our wide variety of emotions to overcome us. As a person of faith, I trust that God does indeed hear our cries and responds to our cries with his own refrain, “Do not be afraid, I am with you.”

Mary Wiggins serves as pastor of Scranton Lutheran Parish.

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