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Bishop's Reflections: Can I Give Thanks in a Time of Sorrow?

Posted: November 22 2022 at 03:22 PM
Author: Bishop John L. Hopkins

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The horrendous mass shooting this past Saturday night at Club Q, an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs, Colorado, breaks my heart and calls me to cry out, “How long, O Lord?”

   How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever?
   How long will you hide your face from me?
   How long must I bear pain in my soul,
     and have sorrow in my heart all day long?
  How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?”  

                                                                        Psalms 13:1-2 (NRSV)

There is “pain in my soul” and “sorrow in my heart” during this week of Thanksgiving when I pause to express gratitude for my blessings. When innocent people are targeted in a safe place by a known dangerous 22-year-old shooter killing five people and wounding at least 19 more, I ask, like the Psalmist, “How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?”

I’ve seen the enemy of hatred, easy access to assault weapons, mass shootings, failure of red flag laws, extreme politics, and apathy win again and again. I have heard the vilification of God’s children because of the color of their skin or who they love. I have observed the shrug of people who do not know how to respond. I have confessed that our churches have not done enough for youth who are bullied or shunned. I have mourned that our communities of faith are struggling when so many people need the love of Jesus to give them faith and hope. “How long, O Lord? How long?”

The Psalmist continues, 

    Consider and answer me, O LORD my God!
    Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death,
       and my enemy will say, “I have prevailed”
    my foes will rejoice because I am shaken. 

                                                                      Psalms 13:3-4 (NRSV)

The Psalmist knows if he dies, the enemy will prevail and rejoice. He cannot give up. Neither can I. I turn to God and ask for light. I place my righteous anger and pain before my Lord and ask, “Can I give thanks in a time of sorrow?”

The Psalmist speaks to me,

     But I trusted in your steadfast love:
     my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
     I will sing to the LORD,
     because he has dealt bountifully with me. 

                                                                          Psalms 13:5-6 (NRSV)

I trust in God’s steadfast love. I will not lose hope in the face of the enemy. My heart rejoices at what I have seen God do. I sing to the Lord because of blessings that come even in a time of struggle. Yes, we can give thanks in a time of sorrow! Can you join me on a day of Thanksgiving?

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