Today I stood within a circle of friends, listening to and speaking memorializing words regarding the tragic death of a friend. Later in the day, I listened to the voice of a friend share with me over the phone emotional pain so blinding that he wondered aloud about the possibility of ending his life. That was just today, yesterday contained similar stories, and I’m sure tomorrow will reveal even more.
I am well acquainted with the prevalence of pain in our lives. So these words are not penned from a desk of ignorance or denial. I see and feel the pain.
But this is Advent, and in this second week of Advent, we are called to remember the promise of peace. To talk about peace in days filled with pain seems absurd, perhaps even insulting to the reality of the pain. To talk about the sunrise while stumbling in the dark seems like a waste of time. But yet, words about the possibility, the promise, the dream of peace are exactly what gets us through the pain. Remembering that darkness is limited by the spin of the earth assures us of the sunrise. If it weren’t for the words, the reminders, the reality of pain just might win.
The lamenting words of the prophet Habakkuk are speaking into my pain today:
“How long, Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not save? Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrongdoing? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds. Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails. The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted.” (1:1-4)
It seems Habakkuk was weary in the waiting. It doesn’t seem he was weary of waiting. Habakkuk hadn’t lost hope. He hadn’t given up on imagining a different future. He saw the violence around him, the abuse of political power, the neglect of immigrants, the predatory lending, the tax evasion, and idolatry of economies built on greed. He knew those painful realities were not the kind of peace God dreamed of. He knew those realities were not God’s vision for creation, not the plans of a kingdom-come…and Habakkuk was tired in the waiting.
But then God speaks. A word of promise interrupts our pain.
“Look at the nations and watch— and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told.”
That’s the Advent promise I am listening too in these days. It’s not a promise of peace for my life, but the promise that God is still working toward his will being done on earth as it is in heaven.
I’m weary in the waiting. Disrupted by the pain but yet resting in the promise of justice and the restoration of all things. I’m learning to live within the assumption that God is still at work nudging creation along toward the day of jubilee.