Make us glad by as many days as you have afflicted us, and as many years as we have seen evil.
This Scripture seems to me the ancient equivalent of the modern cry, “I want a do-over!” For each day of affliction, I get a day of gladness; for each year of evil, I receive a year of good. Although it’s appealing in some ways, many things are wrong with the idea in this verse. For starters, God doesn’t afflict us. God’s will for us, as my priest prays at our Wednesday morning healing Eucharist, is wholeness and healing. Secondly, the idea of an even trade is impossible. It’s rare that a day is so completely full of affliction that there’s no gladness to be found, a year so full of evil that we can’t find any good. Life is more complicated than that.
That said, however, there is a sense of being owed something in recompense for having cancer or enduring treatment. Sometimes, getting another day to live doesn’t feel like enough. We want reparations.
We need to let go of it, focus instead on finding those moments of joy in the midst of difficulty: a child’s smile, a flower, a kind nurse, or the knowledge that we are never alone in our struggles for healing. We have not only wonderful medical professionals on our side but also, as St. Paul indicated, the Holy Spirit, who prays for us in words too deep to be spoken (Romans 8:26). Small wonder that in just a few verses Paul breaks into one of the great hymns of Scripture—Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Nothing, he concludes, not even death. Not even cancer.