I looked on the mountains, and lo, they were quaking, and all the hills moved to and fro.
I looked, and lo, there was no one at all, and all the birds of the air had fled.
I looked, and lo, the fruitful land was a desert, and all its cities were laid in ruins before the Lord, before his fierce anger.
For thus says the Lord: The whole land shall be a desolation; yet I will not make a full end.
- Jeremiah 4:23-27
In one part of the world, war rages. In another, people struggle from day to day in the wake of a devastating earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster. What sufferings do we have that can possibly compare with these?
Just this: we’re alive, but we won’t be forever. All around us, people are suffering death and loss. Though the lawns are still neatly manicured and commerce goes on unimpeded, it feels like their world is coming to an end.
“The mountains are quaking, and the hills are moving to and fro, because the one I love is gone. There is no one at all, and even the birds have left me alone, because the one I love is gone. The fruitful land is a desert, because it cannot feed me the one I love. The cities are laid in ruins, because I would give them away to get back the one I love.”
The sufferings of individuals cannot really be compared to each other. It feels like God is singling us out for punishment. Yet does God punish in this way? Does God send death and loss in order to attack us? Despite the preponderance of scripture that might claim to support this view, I think not. But I do think it feels like this very, very often in our lives.
Yet, says God, “I will not make a full end.” Nothing is ever really destroyed; it just changes into a new form. And that also goes for the people we love but see no longer. But it still feels sometimes like God just takes and takes and takes.
From his album Illinois, here’s Sufjan Stevens with a story song about losing a young friend to cancer. It’s called “Casimir Pulaski Day,” a holiday that doesn’t really have much to do with the song except as a date marker. (But in case you’re curious, look here.)