In our context here in Klong Toey slum, Bangkok, these feelings can be extreme because we live with the consequences. Where do we go when a neighbourhood child dies unnecessarily or a team member lets us down or especially when we aren’t the people we knew we should be? To just absorb and accumulate more anger simply isn’t healthy and can actually make us sick, tired and cranky. Richard Rohr says, “what which is not transformed is transmitted”.
I have found praying the Psalms can help. To especially express prayers of lament, along with the Psalmist, has helped us find hope in the most despairing places.
“How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart?’ Psalm 13.1-2.
As we begin to express lament, crying out to God in frustration, something mystical can happen to us. We find God lamenting with us and through us. We find Jesus is even more angry and disappointed with what is happening in the world than we are. We can give him even our most poisonous or vengeful feelings. After a while our lament can be found within a new, broader, bigger picture perspective. As we finish psalms of laments we can start to pray psalms of hope as something authentic begins to bubble up from within us.
“But God will never forget the needy; the hope of the afflicted will never perish.” Psalm 9.18.
Biblical hope that comes out of lament is more than just wishing that things can get better; it can be a transformational power in the present. This Hebrew word hwqt tiqvah is translated ‘hope’ here in Psalm 9.18, but it can also be literally translated ‘rope’. This needs to be done twice to make sense of the context where Rahab helps Israeli spies escape down ‘red ropes’ (Joshua 2.18). These ‘red ropes’ are then used as a sign wrapped around Rahab’s windows to save her family once Jericho falls to Israel (Joshua 2.21). Thus, biblical hope can have the metaphoric sense of a rope that connects and pulls forward the good future God intends. This metaphor of hope as a rope is taken up in the New Testament, too, when the writer of Hebrews encourages readers to “hold fast to the hope set before us” which is the risen Jesus (Hebrews 6.18).
As Urban Neighbours of Hope we wear a red wrist rope to remember to express our laments as part of seeking to pull forward the good future God has for us, our neighbours and indeed the whole world. We don’t have to be the solution, but we can be a sign of hope expressing what God wants done in the world.