According to some medieval calendars, this is the day on which hell was made. For many waking up to further devastation in the U.K. and the U.S.A., there is a certain irony in that. What could be more hellish than to be wading through sewage in one’s own home, or shivering without power through an ice storm? Perhaps our friends in Syria or the Central African Republic might have their own views on that, but we must stick with what we know and experience at first hand, the effects of the weather and the misery many are experiencing right now.
Whatever hell may be theologically, practically speaking it is anything and everything we find exceptionally hard and disagreeable, something that inflicts extreme pain. Sometimes the pain comes from outside; sometimes it comes from within; but the one constant is that it seems to have no redeeming feature. It is lonely, bleak and hopeless. To pretend otherwise is dangerous, because it means that our prayer becomes infected with a fundamental dishonesty. Certainly, we can and should ask for the grace to see as God sees; but if for the moment we are blind and deaf to everything except the pain we experience, then that is what we must take to the Lord. He will not turn us away because we are raging. In fact, I rather think he will embrace us as we ourselves might embrace a child in a tantrum. Today, as we pray for those suffering from the effects of the weather or any other disaster, let us be simple and direct in our prayer. Spare your people, Lord; we ask nothing less.