Priscilla's Friends

My tears have been my food day and night, while others say to me
continually, 'Where is your God?'

    My thoughts today are resentful, for God's hand is heavy on me in my
trouble. If only I knew how to find him, how to enter his court, I would
state my case before him and set out my arguments in full; he rubbed my face
in the ground and broke my teeth on the gravel. I have forgotten what health
and peace and happiness are.

    I tell you the truth, unless an ear of wheat falls to the ground and
dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many
seeds... every branch that does bear fruit he trims clean so that it will be
even more fruitful.

    We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that
we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of
death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who
raises the dead.

(Psalm 42:3, NIV; Job 23:1-4, NEB; Lamentations 3:16-17, GNB; John 12:24,
15:2 NIV; 2 Corinthians 1:8-9, NIV)


When misfortune strikes us -- illness, unemployment, deep depression,
failure in personal relationships -- God can seem to be very distant and
uncaring and our inner lives begin to wither and die. The ancient Hebrews
expressed their feelings in a particular form -- that of the lament -- often
directed to the God whom they no longer experienced!

    Today, our tendency, when something goes wrong, is to try to locate the
cause of the problem and treat or rectify it. We feel more comfortable
looking back over our shoulders than engaging in another common biblical
practice, looking in anticipation to the creative work God is going to do up
ahead as in John 9:2-3.

    Two of the most severe forms of physical pain are giving birth and
having kidney stones. Women will willingly become pregnant; but only a
masochist would want kidney stones. It makes all the difference when
suffering has a desirable, constructive purpose.

    Suffering, particularly where it is the result of injustice or where it
occurs through no fault of the victim, can lead to anger and bitterness. It
can easily block off the flow of practical trust in God. Such pain needs to
be expressed if it is to become a resource rather than a liability and
achieve its purpose in the fruitful growth of the person or community


The work of God is built upon the ruins of a man's life.

F. Fenelon, spiritual adviser to Louis XIV of France, source unknown

When building a skyscraper you have to go down before you can go up.


It seems to me that the priest or layman who is not constantly harassed by
thorns is underprivileged. His thorns may be in the form of little Hitlers,
cynics, critics and professional opposers; or they may be in the form of
illness, impediments, scars and disfigurations; or they may be in the form
of lost love, betrayal and disillusionment; or they may be in the form of
wounded pride, humiliation and ignominy; or they may be in the form of
poverty, hunger and destitution; or all of them put together... A thorn
usually leads to the cross, and the cross to the confession of sin, and
thence to freedom and incomparable strength. But before we can feel the
strength of Christ we must know that there is no health in us insofar as our
own personal power goes -- that of ourselves we can but eventually fail, but
in Christ we can know nothing other than final victory.

Austin Pardue, Why Learn to Pray

God wounds deeply when he wills to heal.

Herman Kohlbrugge

And my lament

Is cries countless, cries like dead letters sent

to dearest him that lives alas! away.

I am gall, I am heartburn.

God's most deep decree

Bitter would have me taste: my taste was me.

Gerard Manley Hopkins, Untitled sonnet

As good go anywhere, they say,

As to benumme

Both knees and heart in crying night and day,

Come, come, my God, O come,

But no hearing.

O that thou shouldst give dust a tongue

To crie to thee

And then not hear it crying! all day long

My heart was in my knee

But no hearing.

George Herbert, Deniall


It is not easy, Lord, to follow after you.

While you take the hard road

   with joyous leaps and bounds,

I stumble over every stone

   and slip into every rut.

You calmly weather each storm

    and walk fearlessly through the night.

I am burfeted by the winds,

  and I falter in the darkness.

And you always have answers, Lord,

    for those who confront you.

My tongue is thick and clumsy.

I cannot articulate what I feel

  or what they need to hear.

You have the wisdom and the power

    to meet the needs of those about you.

But I am foolish and ineffective,

  and my brothers turn away from me in disgust.

I have really tried to relate to people about me,

    to reach out in love and concern.

I have shared their sorrows and their joys.

I have shelved my ambitions

  to respond to their needs.

But when I fail to produce what they want,

  or when l am limited by my humanity

  and incapacitated by my personal problems

  they will have nothing to do with me.

I feel as if I have been used only to be abused.

I am squeezed dry and then cast aside

  as if I were of no further value.

Yet I must continue to follow you, O Lord.

It is a hard path to walk,

  and I will falter at times.

I long intensely for an occasional oasis

  along this journey through wind and sand.

I need desperately your touch of joy and enrichment

  as I labour amidst the blood and tears

  of this distorted world.

I am empty, Lord.

  Enable me to sense your fullness a

  and grant me the grace and the courage

  to be faithful as your child and servant.

Psalm 35 from Psalms Now by Leslie Brandt


A Benediction

O God, who knowest us to be set in the midst of so many and great dangers,
that by reason of the frailty of our nature we cannot always stand upright;
grant to us such strength and protection, as may support us in all dangers,
and carry us through all temptations; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Book of Common Prayer

Rowland Croucher, ed., Still Waters, Deep Waters, (Albatross/Lion)
chapter 19

rowland @ johnmarkministries . org
Email Jan and Rowland