Our passage from Ezekiel opens with a vision, where the prophet is standing in the middle of a valley.He’s in the valley of the shadow of death, that place we heard about last week in Psalm 23. Here, in this vision, God takes Ezekiel to a place of despair, where it looks like all hope is lost. And that’s where the Spirit of God shows up—in the midst of the suffering, in the devastation, in the hopeless situation.
Our faith doesn’t hide from death, our God doesn’t ignore the shadowed valleys. Instead, we pay attention to where we are, even when we are in the valley, and wait, with Ezekiel, for hope.
That’s where we find the Psalmist this week, the author of Psalm 130—the Psalmist is waiting, waiting while agitated, waiting while scared, waiting as chaos swirls through the mind. I’ll read verses 5 and 6 again: “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in God’s word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning, more than those who watch for the morning.”
There’s a lot of repetition in these two short verses. Not only does the Psalmist repeat the word “wait” a few times, there’s a half a sentence that’s repeated word for word: “my soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning, more than those who watch for the morning.”
I’m imagining these words as a prayer, in the dark hours of the night, where the hours drag on, the minutes are countless—the Psalmist can’t sleep. They’re wide-awake, desperate for the morning. The repetitions are the sound of someone trying to soothe themselves, to convince themselves that everything is going to be ok, that all shall be well.
This Psalm reminds me of a passage from Julian of Norwich, a theologian from fourteenth century England. She survived season after season of the plague. The first epidemic lasted three years; during that time three-quarters of the population in her city died. Another plague besieged her city a decade later, then another that wiped out the cattle, then there was a drought, the harvest withered away. She lost loved ones, she lost neighbors, a way of life was taken from her. She herself almost died from a mysterious illness.
In the midst of it all, she wrote down her reassurances from God. There’s a line she repeats in those writings, kind of like the Psalm we just heard. Julian writes to herself, and to us—she writes these words, “All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.” These words were reassurances from God to ease her mind, words of comfort, phrases she could say to herself to sustain her faith.
We all need reminders, and sometimes all we can do is remind ourselves with a mantra of hope, like these words from Julian of Norwich: “All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.”
This is a Psalm for people who are waiting, people who are trying to make it through a sleepless night. This Psalm is for people who don’t think they can manage what they’re going through, for people who can’t deal with this world. words for when the burden is unbearable, when you can’t get to sleep, when your mind is in chaos.
Maybe that’s you. And if it’s not you, we know that there are countless people who are in that valley this week, people who will be in that valley next week, and next month, there in the valley with Ezekiel and the Psalmist and Julian, waiting, waiting like those who watch for the morning, waiting for hope.
For now, we wait, and we reassure each other with words of hope, and we pray for those who have lost loved ones, for a world where all is not well, and we pray for all the people who are working to heal others, workers who are caring for the sick—we pray for strength, we pray for perseverance, and we pray for rest.
I’ll close with those verses from our Psalm, as our prayer, as our prayer for God’s children everywhere:
“I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in God’s word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning, more than those who watch for the morning.”