I had never heard the term “hallelujahs in hell” until yesterday. Apparently that term is used in a Kiss song (which is actually “Hell or Hallelujah“), a semi-famous church video on the topic of eternal damnation, and numerous Good Friday sermon titles.
Eight years ago today, an unspeakable horror occurred in Newtown, Connecticut. I don’t need to share more details here and you can look it up if you don’t know the story. But what happened rocked our nation – only not enough for us to change gun laws on semi-automatic weapons.
My friend Cindy had just died of cancer two days before and so I was foggy when I first heard the story on the radio. Did I really hear what I think I heard?
I have come to know one of the moms who lost her child that day and she inspires me daily. I knew of her from the first day because her brother-in-law is a friend of a friend. And I have been praying for her for a long time.
She is a Christian. She is the kind of Christian who feels like my sister. She is the kind of Christian who understands that being wrapped in grief doesn’t mean we have no faith. She is the kind of Christian who can experience the depths of hell and still whisper, “God be praised.” She is the kind of Christian who knows that God’s finger is not on every steering wheel, every weapon, every threat. She knows that we worship a God who weeps, a God who knows what it’s like to lose a child.
Over the weekend she wrote:
It’s a hell’s hallelujah – that which we live. It includes patterns of holding, maintaining and thriving.
20 children. 6 adults. All have family who survive them. All have family who will grieve forever.
I believe that one of the highest examples of faith is when we can dwell in the deepest, ugliest, most excruciating hell and still somehow believe that God is with us.
If you are struggling today: If you are a pastor wondering what all this is doing to your congregation, if you are a health care provider on your last ounce of energy, if you are a small business owner watching your investment slip away, if you are an unemployed person on the cusp of eviction, if you are a person grieving the loss of a loved one from COVID-19 or violence or any malady that destroys the body . . . maybe someone can whisper hallelujah for you today if you can’t say it yourself.
I tweeted Nelba Marquez-Greene a while back:
Strangers in Charlotte are praying you feel especially loved in these days. You continue to be a good Mom.
And she tweeted back:
I’m going to follow you so we’re not strangers anymore.
She and her family established The Ana Grace Foundation for the purpose of “promoting love, connection, and community for every child and family.” She and many others are grieving today and everyday. And still we cry “hallelujah.”
Image source here. Please stop whatever you are doing right now and click the link. And then click the names of those children and teachers and read about them. And then pray for those for whom today is terrible.