April 12/Fifth Friday of Lent
Ropes of death encircled me; torrents of wickedness assailed me; Ropes of Sheol entangled me; snares of death confronted me. In my distress I called upon the Lord; to my God I cried for help. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears. ~ Ps 18.4-6
When my children were young, one of our favorite Richard Scarry tales (and there were many) was Mr. Frumble’s Worst Day Ever. Through light-hearted, deftly-detailed drawings and humorously detached language, the reader accompanies the green-suited, pickle-car-driving Mr. Frumble through a day that begins with burnt toast and a flooded bathroom and goes on to bring one calamity after another. This tale, and others like Judith Viorst’s classic Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, reflect the experience that even little people can have of a day when everything seems to go wrong at once. As we grow into adulthood, the calamities intensify and become more complex, as relationships fall apart, jobs don’t work out, an unexpected move is required, illness strikes. Or in psalm-speak, we may feel that ropes of death are encircling us and torrents of wickedness assailing us. When we find ourselves trapped in such a place of perdition, bound by the entangling ropes of difficulty or confusion or disintegration, how do we find a way out? Is there no exit? Our psalmist is ready with his answer. From the unrelenting dangers of ropes and torrents and snares, he sticks his head above the surface of his distress and issues an SOS, not once but repeatedly. “In my distress I called upon the Lord; to my God I cried for help.” And God — seemingly far away, as the psalmist envisions it, in his temple — hears, and hears immediately, as the cry of distress “reaches his ears.” In times of trouble, our connection to God is our surest lifeboat.
Answer my prayer, O Lord, when I call to you for help, entangled as I am in the difficulties and complications of my life. Amen.