“You gave us up to be devoured like sheep, And have scattered us among the nations. . . for your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered. Awake, Lord! Why do you sleep? Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever. Why do you hide your face and forget our misery and oppression? We are brought down to the dust; our bodies cling to the ground. Rise up and help us; redeem us because of your unfailing love.”–Psalm 44:11, 22-26 (TNIV)
I grew up as a city-girl. I lived in a house with a yard at the end of a cul-de-sac. I had ample asphalt to trek on my ten-speed with a Michael W. Smith cassette tape blaring in my yellow Walkman.
But both sets of this city-girl’s grandparents lived in the country. Neither had traditional “farms,” but there was much more dirt than asphalt at their houses, and plenty of animals…though I don’t remember any sheep. What I do remember is every-so-often I would hear that Gramps had killed a cow and then our freezer would be stocked with enough ground beef and steaks to last 3 months.
The image of shepherd leading his or her sheep pastorally, as in Psalm 23, is not all that familiar to me, but I do have personal experience of devouring the product of an animal’s slaughter as in found in Psalm 44 (maybe there’s a reason I don’t remember any sheep).
And in my faith journey, I can also identify with the imagery of slaughter.
I have definitely felt like a sheep on the butcher’s block. I have walked with friends and family who feel as though they have been put through the meat grinder.
And in those moments, if I am truthful, I admit that I felt like God was sleeping. Why in the world would God take a nap on my hardest day? How could God forget to make the divine face shine on all of us in misery and oppression?
Psalms of lament, like Psalm 44, express our deepest, most honest feelings. They were not written to give us the answers or opine theologically. Psalms of lament were written to be sung on the butcher’s block.
So on the dark days, let us sing these songs of sorrow while tears flow from our eyes. Let us accept that, for the moment, we don’t have the answers to unbearable pain or to the fact that we feel like God is sleeping.
But let us call on God to rise and help us anyway. Because at the end of the day, it is better to scream our laments to the one who has also suffered. And who knows, maybe God only seems silent because God is sharing in our pain and cannot speak though the blubbering of divine tears being cried in empathy with us.