thanksgiving or angst-giving?

Written by Mark Van Steenwyk : November 20, 2006

This will be my only post for this week. Amy and I are borrowing a friend’s car and driving up to visit family from Wednesday to Saturday. Along the way, we’re visiting our friend Michael, who is in a correctional facility in St. Cloud. In a recent phone conversation, he gave me permission to share some of his poetry with you, and I hope to share one of them next week.

I like the idea of Thanksgiving, but I’ve never been a particularly thankful person. It isn’t as though I take things for granted more than average–it’s more that I am the sort of person who is always straining ahead for what-could-be. I am always more aware of lack than I am of abundance. I’m motivated by what is wrong and my desire to bring justice than I am by what is right and my desire to give thanks.

My hope and prayer is that God will help me cultivate a heart of gratitude. But I believe voicing angst can sometimes be as beneficial as giving thanks (cheesy wordplay intended). David and the prophets were well versed in voicing angst–crying out to God and their people with a heart of discontent, a heart of sadness, a heart of anger and fear and misery. We need to be thankful, but the prophetic cry is angst-ful.

We have lost our ability to adequately tie our negative emotions to worship. A friend from South Korea tells me that worship services in Korea often include a time to lament–where an otherwise reserved group of worshipers gives voice to both personal and national pain. The Psalms are filled with this sort of expression. Yet those who cry out in the church today are more likely to be accused of sinning than they are of worshiping.

On Thursday I’ll offer thanks. But today, I offer angst.

  • I’m angst-ful over my friend Michael who is serving a year in prison. He has been on the streets for most of his life. He is broken and needy and alone in this world and feels like he is worthless. How long must he wrestle with his thoughts and every day have sorrow in his heart?
  • I’m angst-ful over my finances, Lord. I have never been in a place where I see your vision so clearly, yet am so powerless to respond. I don’t know how to pay for this month of living, let alone next month. I and scared and sad and frustrated. How long, O LORD, how long? Turn, O LORD, and deliver me; save me because of your unfailing love.
  • I’m angst-ful over the state of the Church in America. What are we doing? Why do we throw billions of dollars into the wind when the needs around us are so great? The Church is a whore, but she is my mother, Lord. Show her mercy, O Lord, and heal her. How long, O Lord, will you look on?
  • I’m angst-ful over the War. God, help us to be a Church of Peacemakers. How long will your anger smolder against the prayers of your people?
  • I’m angst-ful over the future of the Cedar/Riverside neighborhood, Lord. We are small and weak. Few of us work in the field and the soil is rocky. The future is uncertain. When will I see the works you’ve promised, Lord?
  • I’m angst-ful over the environment, human trafficking, wars and rumors of wars, sexism, racism, famine, individualism, consumerism, religious fundamentalism, democrats, republicans, etc. and my own complicity in what is wrong in the world.

Nevertheless, I am thankful to you, O Lord. You are the giver of justice. By your Son you are making, and will make all things new. I thank you, O God, that you are not idle. You don’t sit by on the cloud of transcendence, but are closer to me than I am to myself. It is in You that I live and move and have my very being. I thank you for the works you have done. I thank you for the works you are doing. But most of all I thank you for what you WILL do. Come Lord Jesus.

Mark Van Steenwyk is the editor of He is a Mennonite pastor (Missio Dei in Minneapolis), writer, speaker, and grassroots educator. He lives in South Minneapolis with his wife (Amy), son (Jonas) and some of their friends.

Print This Article Print This Article

for further reading . . .

  • None Found


Viewing 6 Comments

    • ^
    • v
    I like the idea of bringing lamentation back into our worship experience. I'm not familiar with the liturgical tradition and/or prayer you know if there is much time given to lament and grief?

    I like your post overall. I would like to challenge one statement though: "Yet those who cry out in the church today are more likely to be accused of sinning than they are of worshiping." My experience is that churches give people freedom to express grief, but not to express anger.
    • ^
    • v
    Good stuff.

    Don't forget to pray for Chris Stewart.

    • ^
    • v
    BTW, what nifty Wordpress plugin are you using to get that equation-answering spam filter?
    • ^
    • v
    It is called "Did You Pass Math?"
    • ^
    • v
    dlw, thanks for the link to that City Pages article. I hadn't heard anything about it until now.
    • ^
    • v


close Reblog this comment
Powered by Disqus · Learn more
blog comments powered by Disqus