Right now we need hope.
At 11:30 am yesterday, an 18 year old boy opened fired in an elementary school. He stole the lives of 19 children and 2 teachers. He murdered them in cold blood. His unspeakable actions left parents, family members and friends of those killed with wounds that will never fully heal. As a Christian, I want to explain this in such a way that somehow it makes sense within my beliefs, but there is no good explanation, no theological defense or framework that makes sense of this. What happened yesterday was pure evil. And too many times in our country, even over just the last few years, evil like this has brought about tragic and senseless death. Some days these kinds of things leave me feeling numb with heartbreak while others days I feel enraged.
In the Bible, God’s people often cried out to him, especially when they saw evil and injustice abounding and God seeming to do nothing about it.
“How long, LORD, will the wicked, how long will the wicked be jubilant?” (Psalm 94:3)
“Why do the wicked live, reach old age, and grow mighty in power?” (Job 21:7)
I share in this pain, and like them I do not understand. I want God to act, and I want Him to act now. I want to see God intervene and stop the evil How do we hold on to our faith in midst of this bitter darkness? It won’t be by pretending things are ok. It won’t come through simple platitudes. The way forward will come though the same courageous faith God’s people have always exercised.
What does that mean?
It means honesty. The most faithful people of God don’t shy away from expressing the anguish, the pain and the uncertainty the darkness brings to our souls. Like the psalmist and Job, the way forward involves telling God how we really feel even when we are upset with the seeming inaction of God Himself.
In that authentic expression of our hearts, we also turn to the promises of God. For me, I think of Revelation where it says: “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (21:4). Each time I read this promise for our future, my heart and soul scream for it to happen right now, especially in light of an atrocity like Uvalde. I am ready now for the day when children will no longer die in school shootings.
Part of our way forward is holding on to that promise no matter what our present looks like. Christian hope is anchored in these kinds of promises because in the worst of times, we know that evil will not win, and the day will come when there will be no more tears.
We also understand and find some comfort in our darkest struggles when we realize we are not alone in them. Lazarus was a friend of Jesus who died. Following his death, Jesus joined others at his tomb. John writes: “When Jesus saw her [Mary] weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled” (11:33). Jesus had the power to stop Lazarus from dying, but he did not exercise that power. He could have prevented the hurt and loss all these people felt. Instead of stopping it, he opened himself up to it. As he looked around at his friends, he participated in the deepest of human suffering — the loss of a loved one.
This scene tells me something very important about God working in the world. When Jesus came, he did not end the darkness. He entered the darkness. He experienced the pain it could inflict. While the cross ultimately overcomes sin, death and the devil, the fullness of that future is not the reality we currently experience. Yet, even in our current experience of this darkness we wish were gone, we know through Jesus that God always walks with us no matter how black the darkness.
There is nothing any of us can say to just make everything alright. To do so could only diminish the loss each family has experienced. What we can do is recognize the truth about our faith. We can be completely honest and open with God about what we feel. We can hold on to hope because we know what our futures holds. We can find some comfort in knowing our God is present with us through every dark moment.
Holding on to those life-giving truths, we can also step up. We cannot let the darkness continue to envelope our lives. As children of God redeemed by Jesus, we have a call to stand against evil in all its forms and to stand with those who suffer. As we do, we can be the change in our society that can make tomorrow a different day.
So, feel the loss. Feel the despair. Share all of this with God and don’t hold back. He can handle it. Hold on to the promises for our future. They are real. They are hope. And, as God walks with us in our pain, look for ways to bring comfort to others.
Lastly, if you are as horrified by all of this as I am, then learn how you can play a part in bringing about positive change. Find agencies who are working for change and do something tangible to support them. Find leaders who will help pass legislation that will make a difference in this fight and vote for them. Learn more about the issues so you can be an informed voice in the conversation.
Finally, never give in. Don’t let the hate and loss consume your soul or cause you to just give up. Lean into faith and give everything to the Lord.