“O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not listen? Or cry to you ‘Violence!’ and you will not save? Why do you make me see wrong-doing and look at trouble? Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise. So the law becomes slack and justice never prevails.” Habakkuk 1:2-40
In today’s first reading, the prophet Habbakuk tearfully and angrily voiced these words some twenty-seven hundred years ago. And yet, you and I could speak these very same words with equal passion and fury right now.
An epidemic of gun violence. Scientists warning us of climate disaster. Child sexual abuse. Wars. Bombings. Refugee camps. Children being abandoned and traumatized at our borders.
The list goes on and on and on and on.
Like Habbakuk, our hearts dare to question and complain to God:
Why do You make me witness such heart-wrenching conflict? Why don’t You save your people from the horror of all this violence and heartache?
The reality is that God’s people are being tortured and dying violently on every one of Earth’s continents: victims of ethnic cleansing, gang warfare, drug cartels. Every single day worldwide media displays the latest shocking news.
As one writer put it: “After all the blood and hate, after the shots are fired or the mosque is burned or the woman is violated in front of her children or the little girl is shot by a stray bullet in her drug-infested neighborhood, how can anything ever be made right again?”
This ugly reality of the “way of the world” is what caused the disciples in today’s Gospel to cry out to Jesus: “Increase our faith.”
We join them in that plea.
Increase our faith. Help us remember that God has promised us ultimate victory. Help us remember that God is faithful. Help us remember that God hears the cries of all people, that God has stretched out a mighty arm to save, not once but many times. Help us remember the Exodus story, the Nativity story, the Resurrection story and the Pentecost story.
Increase our faith. Help us see that God’s ways are different … that God’s ways are ultimately life-giving. God’s ways turn water into wine, give sight to the blind, healing to the sick. God’s ways celebrate the lame man dancing away from a life of shame and poverty. God’s ways embrace prodigal sons, forgive 70 times 7, show kindness to strangers, invite lepers to banquets, grant healing care to people left for dead on the side of the road.
Increase our faith. Grant us fortitude to help the world see God’s vision – a vision that sees beyond sorrow and brokenness; a vision that offers hope amid violence, a vision that emphasizes promise conquering despair.
Increase our faith. Help us develop eyes that recognize God’s hand at work in the world of pain and heartache. Help us train ourselves to look and to see the beauty of this planet God gave us to govern, to see the many who offer their lives in kindness to the oppressed, in generosity to the friendless, in justice to the wronged.
Increase our faith. Inspire us to re-ignite our imaginations so that, even in the midst of crippling pains and heartache we never lose focus on God’s call to step out of our comfort zones and join You in the work of compassion and peacemaking and building the kingdom of God – a place where Your mercy and justice and love reign supreme.
Increase our faith. Give us the stamina and the strength to call the world to account by seeing us, the followers of Jesus, reaching out in love in the midst of all the mess that is not God. Help us embrace a faith so radiant that our passion for God and for every human being will overcome the presence of violence and hatred.
Increase our faith. So we can all begin to join in singing together “Say A Prayer,” a song featured in the musical Memphis:
“Say a prayer that change is coming
Say a prayer that hope is ‘round the bend
And if you pray that change is coming
May what you pray
“Lord, Increase our faith.”
Ted Wolgamot, Psy.D.