There are so many words inside of me, and I’m not entirely sure how they will emerge. But this is me attempting to make some sense of them.
I sat on my couch last night in shock. The brokenness of our world was screaming at me through my phone screen. Hostages. Suicide bombers. Hundreds dead and wounded. In a sports arena, in a theater, at a funeral, in the street. Places where we are told to feel safe were made witness to tragedy.
We are not designed to comprehend this level of evil. God did not create us to be able to understand it because sin was not a creation of God. Sin is a perversion of human nature. God granted humanity, His chief creation, free will out of His love for us, and humanity took that ability to choose and chose tragically. We chose what was easy, we chose out of ignorance, we chose out of an indulgence for hate and anger. We chose sin and continue to choose sin, and the world suffers for it.
As I gathered myself to go to bed last night, I was numb. Paris, Beirut, and Baghdad, cities on the other side of the world, full of people I will never meet, aching against another blow to their security and peace. The millions of Muslims and refugees who will suffer from the backlash of ignorance and hatred the attacks will spur. My faint memories of 9/11 stirred in my mind, of what I remember and what I’ve learned since.
I escaped to the solitude of creation this morning, attempting to put order to my emotions and thoughts. I pushed myself up more difficult trails, hymns pulsing through my headphones. I sat at a picnic table overlooking Birmingham, without the proper words, but doing my best to offer my petition of peace to Heaven. I prayed for strength for those who lost family and friends. I prayed for wisdom for the leaders who will be making crucial decisions in the next few days. I prayed for the innocent people who will be caught in the crossfire of misinformation and vitriol. I prayed for understanding, that hate would not be fought with hate but with love.
As fumbling words poured out and tears welled, “Peace Like a River” began to play in my ears. I mashed the volume up as high as it would go and let the words sing to my soul. “Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come; Let this blest assurance control; That Christ has regarded my helpless estate; And has shed His own blood for my soul. It is well.”
All is not well in Paris. All is not well in Beirut. All is not well in Baghdad. People are hurting. People will continue to hurt. These events will not fade from memory anytime soon, and the backlash against these events will permeate the culture for years to come. We will be tempted to react with violence and with hatred. We will be tempted to try and understand this evil, even when we know that evil is not rational, that it is borne of the perversion of sin, that it cannot be fully understood.
The only weapon against sin is the grace of God. The only weapons against evil and hatred are love and mercy. We must comfort the wounded and the hurting. We must speak up for those who will be falsely accused and mistreated because of their religion or the color of their skin. We must bring light into the darkness in whatever way we can.
And we can’t do this only in the wake of hideous attacks. We must recognize evil as it exists on a smaller scale. We must recognize the systemic inequality, the casual racism and sexism that pervades our culture. We must call out injustice when we see it in our everyday life, not in order to feel superior, but in order to push us toward a society that recognizes every life as valuable because every life is made in the image of God. We must recognize these things in ourselves, recognize the small actions and attitudes that demean others or trivialize their experiences, and seek to weed them out. We will never be perfect, but as we strive toward godliness, these aims of self-correction should follow. As we pray for those affected by these recent acts of terrorism, let us also pray for our own nation, our own communities. They also deserve our time in prayer.
Lord, we can never understand the world we live in. We can never understand the evil that prompts the actions we saw in Paris, Beirut, and Baghdad this weekend. We can only pray. Pray for those affected. Pray for those in leadership. Pray for Your people in those areas who are positioned to be Your Light in the midst of this darkness. Pray that hatred will not be met with hatred, but that Your love and peace will permeate these areas. Oh, Lord, we pray.
These cities and their people will recover. They will be scarred, they will be changed, but they will live. May they live in Your light, remembering that “Even the darkest night will end, and the sun will rise.”
In case you’re not updated on the latest news out of the affected areas, these are the best ones I’ve found: