I know someone in ministry out in New York who is seeking some suggestions for prayers to use with victims of Hurricane Sandy. Among the types of things that may be appropriate and meaningful are words of lament and words of hope. I think that the goal is to find things that are emotionally honest in speaking to God what comes to our mind when sudden and dramatic suffering occurs. The Psalms are saturated with these types of thoughts; thoughts that are honestly, painfully expressed by God’s people to God. My friend’s request was also specific in what was not wanted, i.e. “not any cheesy “It’s all gonna be okay” prayers.””
Which got me to thinking…
In times of suffering is it acceptable to pray “It’s going to be okay” in some way? Living through a Sandy, or Katrina, or 9/11 or any other catastrophe, be it large or small, affecting hundreds or thousands of people, or even just one person, amidst any other prayer we would offer in those circumstances can we also include “It’s going to be okay”? Should we include “It’s going to be okay”?
I think that part of the answer lies in where our vision is cast. Are we only looking around at the place where we are at and remembering what once was? In that case there is no way we can say, or even guess, that things will turn out to be okay.
Another part of the answer is found in the place where we are looking from. If we are looking from a place that is very firmly fixed in this world as the only form of existence, then to pray “It’s all gonna be okay” is to speak empty words into empty space, hoping to find something solid. And it won’t happen.
But if we are people who know God as revealed in Christ Jesus, then both the place where we are standing and the place we are looking towards are profoundly different. The place where we are standing is temporary and the place we have an eye towards is eternal.
The place where we are standing, or sitting, or crying, or wailing, even screaming out in hurt and brokenness is our home but for a time. It is a home that will one day be redeemed. And that redeemed home is the place where our vision is truly set upon. In Revelation 21:5 the promise of God is:
“And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.””
Bringing comfort into a painful place is a difficult thing and the Christian does well to seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit before speaking into those moments. And while it may take the passing of a great deal of time before the situation looks hopeful the Christian can know, with complete confidence, that the outcome won’t just be okay, but that in the end, God’s end, it will be so much better than “okay” even hints at.
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.