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Fertile Ground by Pastor Connie Day of Little Church in the Pines

Island Park News of Island Park, Idaho

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It was an awful time. The country had been attacked. The capital city had been destroyed. Even the temple, the most holy of places, lay in ruins. People were brutally mistreated. Some were murdered. The old and the weak were left to die. They would be too much trouble for their captors. The survivors were taken as slaves and carried off: far from their homeland and all they loved. When they arrived in the land of their enemies, they sat down and wept.

Do you know the feeling?

When the doctors told us the diagnosis, we sat down and wept. When we went home after the storm and saw the destruction, we sat down and wept. When we hung up the phone, all we could do was sit and cry. After we visited him in jail, we sat down and wept. After she breathed her last breath, we just sat and cried.

There are moments when we are so overwhelmed that all we can do is sit and cry. "How can we sing the songs of the Lord in a foreign land?" How can we sing when our hearts are broken? How can we sing when we face such uncertainty?

In the poplar trees, they hung up their harps and their faith. It's hard to not do that. It's hard to not hang up your faith when you're going through such a difficult time. But that's when we most need to hold on, to trust, and to act in faith: to see beyond the moment, beyond the tragedy, beyond the heartache; and to believe that, somehow, God will see us through.

This is my least favorite Psalm. The raw emotion of it is hard to hear. If it had ended sooner, it wouldn't be bad. Verse 7 is where it starts to go "downhill" with a call to remember all of the bad things that have happened.

"Remember the day of Jerusalem's fall, how they said, 'Tear it down! Tear it down! Down to its foundations!'" And then there is that jolting image of taking infants from the arms of their mothers and throwing them against rocks to kill them. Against an adult who has done terrible things, one might be able to justify violence. But violence against an infant — even the child of an enemy-seems out of place in the Bible and in a life of faith. How does a person of faith get to that level of destruc-tiveness and disregard for human life? How does a statement like that end up in the Bible — the holiest of books?

O Daughter of Babylon, doomed to destruction, happy is he who repays you for what you have done to us — he who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks. These are hard words to hear. And yet, they are in our Bible. And the truth is, we feel those feelings sometimes. We cry out to God in anger and despair, and God does not disregard us. God does not demand that we clean up our language or our thoughts when we pray. The book of Lamentations was also written during the captivity in Babylon, but it has a different tone to it. It starts out the same: I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall... and my soul is downcast within me."

When we allow ourselves to dwell on the hardships of life, they tend to multiply. When we rehearse the pain over and over, and talk about it again and again, it becomes a heavier burden. Psalm 137 and Lamentations 3 both start in deep sorrow and anguish. But the writer of Lamentations makes a pivotal decision. While the Psalmist spirals down into destructive patterns of evil, seeking to multiply hurt and trouble, the writer of Lamentations is lifted up to hope and joy. Lamentations says, "This I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning."

When life gets hard, you might want to hang up the harps in the trees. You might want to hang up your faith, and refuse to sing the songs that remind you what you know and believe. "How can we sing the songs of the Lord in a foreign land?" I don't know. But we have to try. We have to find a way to keep hoping, believing, and trusting that God is with us. We have to find a way to hold onto our faith. We must take those harps down and let the music reassure us and remind us what we believe and why we believe it. If we hang up the harps and quit singing, then all we have is the sorrow, fear, uncertainty, and heartache. And these lead to destructive patterns that multiply the hurt and sorrow.

Look to God for strength. Cry out against the injustice, but then remember the things that will lift you up and give you hope.

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Original Publication Date: September 24, 2015

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