“…the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought,
but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.”
Yesterday, the Ohio Northern University community lost one of its members, a student who took his own life. It’s always a tragedy when a young person dies, but it is so much sadder when it happens in such a manner. Our entire community continues to mourn, even as we move on with the daily business of educating a generation of young leaders for the world.
Last night when I got home, I of course ran to my two children’s bedrooms and hugged and kissed them both before they went to sleep. I found myself holding on to each of them just a little tighter, too, as I recalled the events of the day, and the fragility of human life. After I made sure that Daniel and Rebecca were both tucked in for the night, I went to the living room and sat down with our two dogs, Mack and Cheese, and found myself opening up with a flood of tears. While I didn’t know the student who died personally, I know and love so many students on this campus, and I saw their pain as they gathered last night in the Chapel for a time of prayer and sharing. It touched me to the core to see their outpouring of grief and love for one another, and for their lost friend. After my tears, which I surmise were as much from exhaustion as anything else, I found myself sighing throughout the rest of the evening. I caught myself after about an hour of this, and wondered, “What am I doing, sighing like this?” And it was then that I remembered this scripture from Paul’s letter to Rome, about “sighs too deep for words.” In the passage, Paul reminds us that the Spirit prays with us, and sometimes even for us, when we do not have the words to express our sadness, grief, or even great joy. And I realized that this is exactly what was happening to me last night–the Spirit was praying through and in my sighs in a way that could not adequately be expressed through words. Words, even those of comfort like I brought to the gathering last night, are so inadequate, so flimsy, in the light of tremendous grief. Sometimes, all we can do is sit, and cry, and sigh with one another, knowing that God hears our cries, feels our pain, and knows our prayers–even the wordless ones.
Over the next few days, weeks, and months, there will be many more tears, many more sighs. God will hear every one of them, and the Spirit will pray through them, as we process this tragedy, and as we begin to find a way to move forward.
If you find yourself being in despair, or feeling lonely, or wanting to hurt yourself, please know that there are people who can help you, if only by sitting and sighing with you today. Please, reach out and ask them to be with you. No one should ever feel alone. May God bless you all.