An open letter to the Lord God complaining about the abundance of sickness and suffering

Let me begin by thanking you for delight.
For I’ve sat in city parks listening to stories from mouths and eyes that know the earth, and at moments, the world went liquid.
I’ve stood with my stick at the edge of a brook to watch a dipper bow in constant worship of moving water.
And I’ve waited dumb at the door, to see the glory of a being, held up by the heels, cry delirious shrieks of arrival. 
So don’t think I’m all about bitching—
I will not refuse joy so as to prove the Devil his diligence.

But we both know why we’re meeting:
There’s been too many fires this year, too many reminders of ashes to ashes.
Too many rattling trees—trembling leaves wheezing in wind.
And here in early August, the birds, it seems, are breaking the news of leaving early and not returning.

Not enough rain: have you noticed all the grasshoppers this year?
Soon they’ll be eating green paint off the sides of houses.
Too much rain: will you send us frogs?

“Homicides are up in all the big cities,” reports the slashed CBC.

Look! There’s too many open-throated magpies in black ties and blazers raiding the nests of the poor.
Too many flies at the eyelids of bellied children.
Too many hooded children wearing weapons.
Too many videos of rolling heads, and mothers, on World Today, being asked how they feel.

“We are reaping our sins,” says the Evangelist on The Light, satisfied
with the spike in seminary enrolment and audio-book sales, where you can hear him
lauding the man John Wesley who preached an astonishing 40,000 sermons—
a game changer in the saving game.
But did no one stop to ask after Molly? Naturally she left him.

It’s not death I complain of, of course there’s death, impervious to curse and prayer.
Its the Fates’ I fear, wretched spinsters spinning their dread threads of determinism tight around our indifferent spindles.

Fourteen times, by my count, the psalmist cried, “…how long Lord?”
“How long will your wrath burn like fire?” “How long will you be angry?”
Your answers…spears of silence.

If you rage, do you weep as well?
I’m a father too and know the extremes.
See how my scion bends—their suffering a long shuttering, shuddering pain.  
But I see no power flying out from cloak and touched hem to staunch that issue of agony.

Yes, my faith has failed until my faith, now, is in failure.
And yet I’m here, fingers on these beads, head pressed to the dark wood,
poking at the absence: my God my, God, how long, how long?

And still the saskatoons ripen and the clouds gather and hang like grapes
at open mouths, awaiting mercy, awaiting love, awaiting…


  1. You capture the suffering of the universe as only those who’ve seen it up close can do, those who have suffered themselves. Thanks for writing so honestly and beautifully, and reminding the rest of us that we too can strive to bear the silence with grace.

  2. You have captured the dilemma of human awareness of delight/pain personally and “out there” with the poetry of your prose. With you I’m waiting…

  3. Stephen,
    I’ve had this open on a tab in firefox for days now, and just had a moment to read it. I read it aloud, and will always do so with your prose from now on, because to vibrate your words on my vocal chords caused an unexpected resonance (on the other hand, of course it did), and as I spoke the words “my God my, God, how long, how long?”, tears came into my eyes. Thank you for this, as always. Thank you for taking the time and care.
    Love, Dana

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