A Prayer for When You Feel Hopeless
There is a place so dark, raw and empty that it is most profoundly hard to pray. You may have a concept of God in years past. You may wish you had one. And yet all you feel is the darkness. The loss. The emptiness. The terror.
This is a prayer, written as a story/poem of sorts, humbly offered for this time.
Dear gentle God,
We come before you with empty hands, broken hearts, tear-stained faces, bodies weak with fatigue. Our minds have raced for so long, and now we feel lost. We offer this prayer filled with unknowing. Unknowing of your existence. Unknowing of hope. Unknowing of how we will go on.
Our insides are destroyed. The worst has happened or is imminent. We thrash around. How can this be? Why did this happen? Is there not another path that could have opened? We cry. We collapse. There is no comfort here. No words can change this reality.
And yet we are still here, God. We are here with our broken hearts and our helplessness and our hopelessness.
What can we do? What prayer can we say? Why even bother?
Someone says, "There is a reason."
We shout, swear, throw over a chair, break dishes.
Someone says, "There is always hope."
A bitterness rises in our mouth. We want to be sick. They don't know.
How do we find a prayer of hope here?
There are no words.
The damage is done. The worst has come to pass.
Finally fatigued with our thrashing, our anger, our tears. We lie down. Collapse. On the cold hard floor of this harsh reality.
We lie there for hours. Hours that stretch to days and weeks. Perhaps our bodies rise, going through motions, and yet our spirit stays on that cold hard floor.
Can you reach us here God? Can you come to us?
God of beauty and music, sunset and flowers, what do you have to do with this kind of pain? This kind of loss? This unrelenting pain and fear?
Wait, what is that?
You lie down on the cold floor next to me? You pull a blanket around me.
I feel the hardness still below me.
Your hand is on my shoulder.
An unexpected warmth moves over my skin.
There is a sound. I haven't heard it before.
It is a deep vibration.
It resonates out.
The sound pulls me.
It carries my heartache. It doesn't stop it. It moves with it.
It is not the shush for a crying baby. I realize this is the groan of a laboring mother. A deep, soul-rocking sound.
A long time I lay here, this warmth enveloping me. This sound carrying me. Have I fallen asleep? Am I waking up?
Something shifts in me. This pain.
Is it possible it won't kill me? Is this pain something different? There is something new about it. Is the guttural sound of my heartaching--a laboring? the sound of breaking open?
It is all I can do. I breathe. I realize something new is arriving within me. What new fragileness could be born of this experience that has torn me in half?
Asking this question I feel uncomfortable.
I notice my arms and legs.
Having been bent over in grief for so long. Clutching my stomach. I forgot they were there.
I didn't know this might move through me.
That I might survive.
When all I felt was darkness.
I didn't know that light would pour through this wound, surrounding me.
May it be so.
Dear God of all things big and small,
May it be so.
May the impossible pain and loss of this situation miraculously be filled with light. May I somehow, far beyond my comprehension, find a way to let this not just be death and loss. May it be a way for light to stream in, through and around me.
May the heaviness I feel be lifted as I look around and remember your loving presence.
May I remember how you lay with me, midwifing this loss with me. How I was never alone.
May I find strength and courage with time to be with others who know this unbearable pain.
May I never offer saccharin comforts of a certainty that does not exist.
May my intimate knowledge of this despair keep me remembering the fragileness of every moment.
May I surrender control and yet not release my ability to be part of love and light that surrounds us all.
May I embrace that love and light around me.
May I hold tenderly this experience that I thought would destroy me.
May I proceed gently, as my wounds are raw.
May I show up in this moment,
May I awaken to all the love and light surrounding me.
This prayer and painting "Finding Light" (36" x 108") I created for Finding Hope 2019. They will be on display at Bryn Athyn College, on April 6th, as we focus on expanding our capacity to be present with one another in hard times. We talk about the impact of suicide, addiction, domestic violence, sexual abuse, and mental illness and show up with support, compassion, and resources. Photos Include some of the creative process, including the Finding Hope team writing prayers on the canvases before I painted.