Heathdale flower 08th August 2019

Crossing the Bowl of Tears to Hope

Millions braved the Atlantic Ocean to escape the Irish Potato Famine. In the Psalms, David speaks about clinging to hope in similarly desperate times.

Heathdale flower

In September I will have the privilege of attending a two-week leadership course at Harvard University in Boston. I’m really excited about this opportunity and can’t wait for September to come.

It’s probably why the following article title caught my attention. It read, ‘Crossing the Bowl of Tears - A plaque in Boston’. I read on to learn about a special plaque in the centre of Boston. It sits adjacent to a monument commemorating all who braved the Atlantic Ocean crossing in the late 1840s to escape the catastrophic Irish Potato Famine.

During this appalling time more than a million people died. At the same time, another million or more people abandoned their homes, families and country to cross to the Unites States of America. Irish poet, John Boyle O’Reilly, poetically phrased it as “crossing the bowl of tears”! Driven by hunger and heartache, these poor travellers sought some measure of hope during desperate times.

As I read about these heart-wrenching attempts to flee a hopeless situation, the words of David in Psalm 55 came to my mind.

“My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death have fallen on me. Fear and trembling have beset me; horror has overwhelmed me. I said, "Oh, that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest. I would flee far away and stay in the desert; I would hurry to my place of shelter, far from the tempest and storm.”
Psalm 55: 4-8

In this Psalm, David shares how he desperately pursues hope. While we do not know all the circumstances surrounding this moment in David’s life, nor the specific dangers he was facing, the weight of this moment was enough to break him emotionally. The Bible describes David as a man after God’s own heart but even his instinctive reaction was to pray, ‘Oh, that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and find my rest!’ There are times when Godly people feel overwhelmed and desperate. I don’t know about you but if I had been in David’s shoes, I would have wanted to flee to safety, too.

As David considered his prayer and situation more deeply, he chose to run to God instead of simply running away from his circumstances. Psalm 55 later records David as saying, ‘As for me, I call to God, and the Lord saves me.’

David had learnt the biblical truth, that when deeply difficult times come, we need to remember that the God of all comfort is able to carry us through the darkest moments and through our deepest fears. Our God is a God of immeasurable hope. We can all draw from this hope and confidently trust Him.

We deeply desire that each of our students not only know of this message of hope, but also draw upon it. The staff and I desire that each student placed in our care can come to know and experience the hope provided by our precious God, through Jesus Christ. May you also know and experience this message of hope.