O Lord, forgive me for I have doubted your lovingkindness. (Lam. 3:22–33; Mark 5:21–43;)

Today we will touch on painful things, a lot of pain – and anger – along with the frustration, confusion and despair caused by our sinful genetics.   It may happen that if something goes wrong in the area of our faith and trust in God, we may lose hope and become very upset.  Struck by this, some Christians raise questions such as: Why the Lord doesn’t answer my prayers?, How could He let this happen?, Why me?, Am I outside His love?, Does God really care of me?,  Where was God at that time?   In turn, I also have a question: Can we drown out negative emotions climbing to the summit where joy and peace live forever? Trying to find a solution to such a conflict experts wrote books delving into the search for this query.  I also decided to touch on this issue as much as it relates to the Bible reading assigned for today.

We start from illustrations. The first one, dating from the mid-19th century, refers to a historical event sparked by William Miller, a Baptist layman from Low Hampton, New York. He has won many followers proving that the Second Coming of Christ will happen around 1843 . Thanks to such “signs of time” as the meteor shower of 1833, the storm in Madeira in 1842, the earthquake and comet in 1843, and the financial panic of 1837 on top of the growing lawlessness, violence, etc., – the Advent of Christ seemed for many just around the corner. The expectation of the approaching Doom Day stirred up not only emotions but it called for actions as well. The record says that some owners closed their shops; farmers left their crops unharvested; holders given away their money. People had looked for imperishable rewards in exchange for their charity and devotional acts in honor the King of Glory. Thus, a man from Philadelphia put out a such sign, “This shop is closed in honor of the King of Kings, who will appear about the 22nd of October. Get ready, friends, to crown Him Lord of all.” As the day of great expectations passed by, but Christ had not yet come, the enthusiasts were very disappointed; not to say that the public made fun of them. Oh, how depressed and sad everything turned around.

The first lesson teaches us that those who admire the false teachers will inevitably fall into a pit filled with disappointment, painful trials, and all kind disorders, (Luk 6:39). One of Miller’s followers, named Hiram Edson, left a note with a bitter and sarcastic mood when all expectations of Christ’s return collapsed. “We wept, and wept, till the day dawn. . .. If this had proved a failure, what was the rest of my Christian experience worth? Has the Bible proved a failure? Is there no God – no heaven – no golden home city – no paradise? Is all this but a cunningly devised fable?

Other two stories relevant to the topic we found, first, in (1Ki 19) when Elijah fled in panic from the fury of Queen Jezebel and, finally, completely devastated, sat down on the ground and whispered: “It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers,” (v.4).  And the second one in the Book of Job, when Job’s wife being extremely struck by the devastation of their family, burst into tears and said: Job, Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die, ( 2:9). But righteous Job did not curse God; instead, he cursed the day he was born,(3:1).

Here we conclude that even pious people are not immunized against frustration and discontent with God.  Thus having experienced the physical or emotional impact of certain afflictions, we become vulnerable to internal and external forces of evil, as a result of which we can be dissatisfied with God.  In addition, the negative impact is amplified when our prayers seem to go unanswered. In such a situation, we may feel cut off from God’s help, just like a man of faith from a movie: “The Mute Prayer.”

 If you can, imagine yourself among the Christians who are gathering at the entrance to the church inside the monastery wall. We are waiting for the hieromonk, let’s call him Gregory, who has the mind of Christ. We believe that his prayers and supplications along with advice will help us in our spiritual struggle. After a while, we see Gregory wearing a black vest at the moment when he passed through the door. We immediately rush to him with our problems on our lips. “Pastor, can I talk to you, please.” “I have trouble with my daughter, an alcoholic. She forces me out of my house,” Other said, “My daughter is praying for the healing of her child but the boy is getting worse.” And other said, “Pastor, I need your advice, My wife left me, …”

  All problems, including ours, were patiently listened to and “resolved.” Saying generally, Gregory advised to pray daily; he mentioned church attendance as a very important element of our devotional life; he said that we should be charitable towards those in need; also endure sufferings patiently; be contented and grateful to God. All this should help solve our problems with a merciful and just God in Christ Jesus. However, after some time, Gregory himself became a victim of a similar problem, as he noticed that regardless of his prayers and the prayers of the church, the life of his parishioners did not change for the better, but many of them who were essentially guilty of their own sin did not take it to heart . O Lord, why don’t you hear us ? prayed the monk. Has your great mercy turned away from us? O Lord, hear us, sinners who has trusted in You, so that we may live in peace and repentance. O Lord, has our prayers grown so vain that You no longer hear us? O God, show us Your great mercy for You love mankind. O Lord, … O God, forgive my boldness and teach me how to care for needs of Your people. Have mercy on me, Your wretched bond-servant; O Lord, O Lord!

Gregory has kept praying …. day after day. Once when he fell asleep praying at night, an angel of the Lord appeared to him. Gregory, don’t be afraid, your prayer was heard in the Heaven, and I was sent to open your mind why it is so. Then the angel had taken him up in the air where the monk heard the single sounds of a bell. What are the sounds, and what are they for? he asked the angel. These sounds of the holy prayers, was an answer. Why are the sounds so weak and why they are so few for people are praying in the church now? I will show you and you will understand, reply the angel. After that the angel took Gregory down, exact to the midst of his fellow worshipers, but nobody could see him.

After that, the angel took Gregory down making him invisible in the midst of his congregation in time of prayer. Surprisingly for himself, Gregory realized that he could read the thoughts of people standing in the church. Could you imagine that your pastor would also be able to read your thoughts while praying? Please do not worry, your secrets will not be revealed, at least for now. Meantime the thoughts of the parishioners who attended the church where Gregory was a pastor, they were exposed.

Since Gregory could read all kinds of thoughts, he was very embarrassed, with the exception of one girl who prayed with all her heart, believing that God would show His mercy to her father. O Lord, please return my dad to our family. O Lord, you are very merciful. Please save us, have mercy, and heal my dad from addiction. Dear and loving God, help him give up drinking. Help him, I beg you. Then the angel said: Do you see, that girl, she is praying with faith and love, her grief mixes with hope? Soon after the priest had awaken from the dream. He felt himself very shamefully; then he bowed his knees, and prayed, O Lord, forgive me a sinner! For I doubted Your great mercy I repent. O Lord, I repent, O Lord! I repent. O Lord. Have mercy on me, a sinner! O Lord!

Based on the Old Testament tradition, anger against God, complaints about Him or doubts about his merciful and compassionate heart have been attributed to such a sin as rebellious towards God, which is offensive in nature. For example, in ancient times there was a rule according to which a person cursing God must die. In my pastoral practice, I knew a parishioner who spoke insulting words towards God caused by disappointments and anger due to lack of money and bodily suffering; but later he deeply repented and begged for forgiveness. From the biblical account we learned that when the risen Lord appeared to Thomas, who also was disappointed, he fell to knees, which in itself was a gesture of his repentance for doubt. Thomas could not say anything but “My Lord and my God!” forgive me a sinner. The Lord rebuked Thomas but indirectly, saying: Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed, (Joh 20:29). Being liberated and believing, we rejoice

  Therefore, any doubt about God’s righteousness, His integrity or loving kindness, which in itself is His amazing character, is a sin that erects a wall of enmity, it must be eliminated through true repentance. Being forgiven and believing we rejoice to see the curse remove; we bless the Lamb with cheerful voice and sing His bleeding love, (#431, LSB). Glory and unending thanks to our Savior Jesus Christ because of Him, the Father of Spirits postpones the time of judgment giving people the opportunity to repent so that His people may have peace and glorify Him not only by their lips but deeds as well.

The Scripture says that the Almighty God does not delight in the death of a sinner, or in the suffering of a flesh without reason.  But out of his fatherly love, He gave his only Son, so that whosoever believes in him should be saved, (Joh 3:16).

The Father had put on His Son Jesus Christ the cross nobody could endure. Yet, Jesus has not complained, or was anger with us, or He doubted the infinite loving kindness of His Father. Regardless of these, He has taken our diseases upon His shoulders. The each single healing granted by Jesus to the sick had added Him additional suffering.  If we know how it works, shouldn’t we be grateful to Him and be patient in fulfilling our duties in turn? By listening to the Sunday text of the Gospel, you may have realized how grateful the woman was when the chronic bleeding left her; at the same time, how much do you think the parents of the girl Jesus raised from the dead should have loved Jesus? Then, it would be abnormal if the recipients of God’s love be angry with Jesus or doubt His teaching of righteousness. And we are all recipients of God’s love; if we understand this, we are blessed people.

The (Lam 3:1-21) preoccupied with Jeremiah’s  lament over grievous suffering inflicted by God. He is a man who has seen a lot of afflictions from his countrymen,  but in this occasion his distress caused by God. Actually, such a suffering should not be a fate for a righteous man, but the prophet was counted with transgressors just as our Lord Jesus Christ.  But suddenly, in the blink of an eye, a ray of hope and consolation flashed out of the darkness and the heart of the prophet was filled with thankfulness and the love of God. At that moment, the joyful exaltation of the awesome God burst from a grateful heart with words of praise: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. (Lam 3:22-25). By this key-words the prophet shut the door of despair and discontent and at the same time he opened a door of everlasting joy and peace of heart.

Imagine, how happy would it be if we have the same unwavering faith and hope as the prophets and the apostles who gave us the examples how to endure sufferings and afflictions. And again, how happy would it be if we would never doubt God’s loving kindness toward us who from pure heart want to change for better. The Scripture reminds us that God did not make death; neither does he delight when the living perish but stop to sin and repent.

How good it would be if we had the same ability to endure suffering and affliction as the holy people of God endured.  Again, how good it would be if we never doubted God’s loving kindness and be changed for better. By the way, to be changed for better is not beyond of our ability because everything is possible with God. Scripture reminds us that God did not create death; nor does He admire when a living one dies, but wants and joyfully helps us to do righteous things so that we may live forever. 

Certainly none of us is immunized against anxiety, fear, discontent or doubts with God. But so far this has not happened to us, let us do the right thing, and the rest unload with thankful heart on the One who cares about you, (1 Pet 5: 7).

                                                         Amen.

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