“Daughter Babylon, doomed to destruction, happy is the one who repays you according to what you have done to us. Happy is the one who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks.” (Psalm 137:8-9)
The gentlest description that one could give our passage above is that it’s a complaint. This Psalm lays bare the trauma that Judah suffered at the hands of the Babylonians, who razed both the temple and the city after a long siege. This siege starved Jerusalem’s inhabitants, forcing many to resort to cannibalism, and killed multitudes. Those that somehow lived were marched off to Babylon as slaves. And above all, they wondered if God had abandoned them. The captives were so traumatized and grief stricken, that they couldn’t even sing.
There are numerous Scriptures that tell us not to complain to one another, and for good reason. In the Beatitudes, Jesus equates harboring anger against someone to murder. Complaints can turn into gossip, slander and even greater conflict. But we also know that if we “stuff” our anger, it can come out in terrible and unexpected ways.
This is why even through the exiles’ demand was for deadly retaliation, they were expressing hope, because their complaint was addressed to God. It was a prayer.
There is something deeply comforting knowing that we can complain loudly and impolitely to our God in the midst of conflict. This allows us to blow off steam, and God will eventually transform these complaints into praying for those with whom we are in conflict. This is what Jeremiah was getting at with those same exiles, when he said: “But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” (Jeremiah 29:7)
It is there that God transforms conflict – by transforming anger into compassion and common ground.
Prayer of Response:
“Lord, I thank you that you have big enough shoulders to take on all of my complaints. I ask you to transform my anger into compassion and common ground for those with whom I am in conflict. Amen.”
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