What do you do when you don't know what to do?
Shaken Haiti has been asking that for 10 weeks.
We ask ourselves that, as we respond to blows and shocks. Suddenly a contract you thought was sure falls through.
You believe someone favoured a competitor's bid.
You count on a scholarship, but a poorer student gets it instead. You suspect a teacher wrote you a weak recommendation.
All of this is natural. But is it helpful? Try meditating on Psalm 77 instead. It's not a pleasant picture.
But it's profoundly honest. A court musician named Asaph was reflecting his whole community's trouble. Asaph describes a broken person, who doesn't know what to do.
Maybe her son died in a border skirmish with neighbouring Syria. She could have blamed the general who sent him to battle. Maybe his best friend ran off with his wife. He could have blamed his friend or cursed his wife.
Instead we read: "I cried out to God for help."
It's still not a happy picture, but she or he yelled at the only One who can take our yelling -- even when it feels like we're yelling at a brick wall.
Trouble is, it's hard to pray like that. If God is so great and powerful, won't God be angry at me for yelling? It's easier to complain to or about someone else.
But it never, ever helps. Instead, Asaph teaches us to cry to God first, no matter what.
We've seen Haiti's heartbreaking news.
Yet it's also inspiring, if mystifying, how many victims interviewed have cried to God in their great distress.
No matter the situation, though, the crying will sometime be done. Your voice is hoarse; your heart is spent. When we're stuck in our own goop, we figure out what to do following Asaph's lead: "I will remember the deeds of the Lord."
You don't remember how many goals you scored. You forget how often your picture was in the paper. Asaph remembered things that would leap into the memories of those who first read or prayed this psalm.
Asaph remembers creation, "waters writhing, depths convulsed," and the flood that wiped out everybody but Noah and family. Not everything is fun to remember, but memories remind us we are limited, while God's inscrutable power is not.
Asaph next remembers lovely, yet perplexing, things. God led Israel from Egypt, through the Red Sea, across the Jordan River.
Scheming Jacob deceived his father Isaac.
Bragging Joseph's envious brothers trapped him and sold him back to Egypt.
Joseph later saved them from famine and death. Moses, once a prince of Egypt, became a fugitive murderer and humiliated desert shepherd who was shocked to discover he was on holy ground.
Ordinary people, ordinary liars, ordinary feuding families. All at one time or another cried to the Lord. All for long times were bitter, aimless, empty. They didn't know what to do except first cry to God, then remember.
We ordinary people have griped, gone on binges and come back. We've suffered, wept, despaired. Will we cry to the Lord and remember mighty deeds?
Remember the Berlin wall. I thought that horrible barrier, built in 1961, would last forever. It came tumbling down in 1989 -- God's mighty work to free captives. East Germany's churches played huge parts as they cried and remembered and bravely tore some bricks down.
Remember: Budapest was almost destroyed in the Second World War and again 11 years later during the uprising against the Soviet Union. Remember: in 1990 Hungary, Poland and other Eastern European nations walked peacefully from under the Communist yoke to begin building new nations.
The Catholic Church was part of God's work in Poland. The Hungarian Reformed Church was part of God's miracle in Romania and Hungary, with Rev. Lazlo Tokes leading the way of peaceful resisting.
God's mighty works, done by ordinary people who for a long time didn't know what to do. So they cried to God and remembered.
Cry to God for Haiti, for ourselves. Remember: God is faithful with mighty deeds, though rarely according to our timing.