I Think God is Crying

I wake up every night crying, my friend said quietly, and I think God is crying too.
I was in Nazareth, walking with an Arab Christian friend on the Mount of Beatitudes.

My heart is very heavy, she continued. Tomorrow I will begin a month of prayer and fasting. I want to understand more of God’s heart and passion. I want more of God’s spirit, more of God’s character. I want to hear God; I don’t want other voices to drown out God’s voice.

We’d been talking about increasing hostility in the Holy Land, about Syria and Iraq, about ISIS and the persecution of religious minorities, about refugees and displaced people. Where is the church? she asked. The light that’s supposed to shine from the church isn’t strong enough. God wants us to wake up, to pray, to repent. God wants us to be like Jesus.

This woman is more like Jesus than just about anyone I know. But she described an intensity of desire she’d never felt before, and a deeper call—an overwhelming call. I feel like I have to crawl toward Jesus, she told me, and I envisioned her inching slowly and painfully up a steep incline. I have to crawl through fasting and prayer, she added quietly. I want more of Christ. I don’t know why Christ is calling me to a deeper relationship, but I want it. I’m not satisfied.

She explained that she has repeatedly sensed God asking her to fast and pray. Feeling compelled to study the saints of the past, she read in their stories an affirmation of that disciplined call. So she began.

Today I join her. I fear I won’t be as disciplined as she; that I will find the path too steep, or that I won’t be willing to crawl. But after ten days in the Middle East—Israel, Palestine, Iraq—my heart, too, is very heavy. I am more convinced than ever that what the Middle East needs—and what every nook and cranny of our broken world needs—is to see Jesus incarnated in his followers. But what does that mean in the 21st century? What does that mean in war zones? What does that mean when fear and hatred (and the weapons they produce) seem so powerful? What does that mean when racism is on the rise, when diversity is disdained rather than celebrated? What does that mean when pain and suffering are so deep and so pervasive that we’d rather not see, hear, know?

Just a few days ago I saw an ancient wall on which an intricate floral design had long ago been painted. But with age the paint was fading, and as it did a deeper, prior image began to emerge. It was a cross. The cross. The image of the crucified God, the God of self-sacrificing love. The God who died.

And then came to life again.

Jurgen Multmann calls the story of Good Friday and Easter “the beginning of true hope, because it is the beginning of a life which has death behind it….”

I don’t know how this all fits together—my friend’s desire to fast and pray, my choice to join her, the brokenness and pain so evident in the Middle East, the resurrected reality of a life which has death behind it, and the call to crawl toward that life.

Why did God put this intensity in my heart? my friend asked. Why these tears? What is God trying to tell me? I really don’t know.

Nor do I. I have many questions and few answers. But I do have a settled sense that this way of hungry seeking is the way God has set before us. And so, dear friend, if you’re reading this, please know that I join you. Amen