Tragic Times

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World history has probably recorded more bad times than good times, more suffering than well-being…

We, in our time, are watching the tragic developments in Europe: so many refugees, so many people who have lost everything, so many little children amid cruel realities way beyond their comprehension, barriers that must be scaled, but cannot. Our own communities and regions have their own tragedies and trials.

Tragic times are not foreign in the Bible, either. The Prophet Jeremiah tells about it. He had to inform a woman that her seven sons had died in battle (chapter 15). He seemed to imply that it was just too much for this mother as she collapsed under the weight of her grief. 

Those of us who live in relative comfort watch the news…what can we do? Yes, we must pray, we realize that. But in the face of ongoing tragedies and suffering, we feel uncomfortable with our own prayers. My little prayer and the massive reality of pain. I pray because I must; but I have no great expectations of the effectiveness of my prayers. 

Must I feel embarrassed for my well-being? 

Jeremiah, too, faced those burdensome questions, that mental pain. He begged God for clarity. He said, “Why is my pain unending…?” Chapter 15 of Jeremiah’s prophecy, where we find this question, does not spell out the answers. Instead the prophet points to Israel’s God. In Chapter 16, he makes a confession: “O Lord, my strength and my fortress. My refuge in time of distress.”

God…my refuge.

As long as we have a measure of health, we will praise the Lord. As long as our children can go to school in peace, we will praise the Lord. As long as we have jobs and can do our daily work, we will praise the Lord. As long as we can attend worship services, we will praise the Lord. As long as we can make contributions toward alleviating pain and burdens, we will praise the Lord. As long as we live in the safety of an orderly society, we will praise the Lord. As long as we have food on our table, we will praise the Lord. As long as we keep an open eye for the beauty of nature, we will praise the Lord. 

Lord have mercy on us should we become insensitive to suffering nearby and far away or should we withhold from the struggling refugees in Europe, and the grieving nearby, our gifts of love and concern.

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