To say that our world is a hurting place is an understatement. Our institutions, many of which we have depended on for a sense of security, have been shaken. Our world is in the continuing throes of the COVID-19 pandemic. After weathering the first several months of this ‘once in a century’ attack, many of us find ourselves again facing significant episodes of resurgence—our world is being shaken.
In addition, sparked by racial events in the United States, our world has seen demonstrations against racial injustice. Many organizations have made statements, and many of the statements have sparked conversations—not always pleasant. Our world is being shaken.
When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?
These words appear in Psalm 11:3. Written by King David of Israel, the Psalm is a confident declaration that in the midst of crisis, and in the midst of whatever may come upon us, whether it be man-made or an act of God, we know that God remains in control.
The Bible, especially the Psalms, are replete with lamentable events that befall God’s people. We read of murder in Genesis 4, rape and its repercussions in Genesis 34, dismemberment in Judges 19 and 1 Samuel 18, kidnappings and forced marriages in Judges 21, forced migration and the killing of children in Psalm 137, slavery in Exodus, Leviticus and Deuteronomy, genocide in Joshua 1. . . and the list goes on.
And we see God’s people respond with lament. It often feels to us that we reside in a world not our own—but that as people of God, we live in a world that though created perfect, is now so distorted that we feel like aliens in a strange land.
How can we sing the songs of the Lord in a foreign land? Psalm 137:4
But yet, God calls us to not only endure this place, but to be His presence in the midst of our trouble. Scriptures also contain examples of hope, comfort, and reminders of who we are to be in the midst of where we are.
Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil – Psalm 23
Though I walk in the midst of trouble you preserve my life – Psalm 138:7
If I go to heaven, you are there if I make my bed in the depths, you are there – Psalm 139:8
So we are called to carry on, but we know it’s not that easy.
Early in the morning of September 11, 2001, as the sun was just rising revealing a clear, blue sky with few clouds, I drove past the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan on my way to my first meeting in Long Island, New York. Less than three hours later, those buildings were no more, and our world was changed forever by the worst terrorist attack in US history.
I think of that day, and its aftermath, and the trauma it produced, reflecting on the fact that almost three thousand people were killed. The official count is that 2,996 people died that day. The resulting trauma is understandable and significant. Our condition today is much, much worse…
Covid-19 is responsible for the deaths of more than 170,000 people in the US alone. What trauma has been inflicted to date, and what can we expect that is yet to come?
As the pandemic is felt throughout our world, we know that we have challenges—not only challenges that we can see now, but challenges that are to come. What we now know, is that many people have died; we mourn for them. Many are mourning; we must comfort them. Many are impacted economically, with the lack of jobs and resources; we must seek to provide for them.
This pandemic has revealed significant inequities in what we believed were fair systems—a disproportionate number of black and brown people have been killed by COVID-19; a disproportionate number of immigrants and Latinos are impacted by the economic dislocations of our present condition. And for those so impacted, we must advocate for them.
I’m thankful that the Bible gives us God’s will for us in this difficult time. When the foundations are being destroyed what must the righteous do?
Lament: Psalm 107:13–16 – Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble and He delivered them from their distress
Worship & Pray: 1 Peter 6:7 – Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you
Empathize: Luke 10:25–37 – This is the heart of the gospel – the story of the Good Samaritan
Resolve: Isaiah 61:1–8 – They shall build up the ancient ruins, they shall raise up the former devastations, they shall repair the ruined cities
Comfort: 2 Corinthians 1:3 –7 – Blessed be the God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
In words published on the day of his funeral, an old pastor and fighter and survivor of the Civil Rights movement in the US, Congressman John Lewis reminded us:
Though I may not be here with you, I urge you to answer the highest calling of your heart and stand up for what you truly believe. In my life I have done all I can to demonstrate that the way of peace, the way of love and nonviolence is the more excellent way. Now it is your turn to let freedom ring. When historians pick up their pens to write the story of the 21st century, let them say that it was your generation who laid down the heavy burdens of hate at last and that peace finally triumphed over violence, aggression and war. So I say to you, walk with the wind, brothers and sisters, and let the spirit of peace.
These are echoes of Jesus’ words in Luke 10:37: “Go and do likewise”. . . be a neighbor to those who are most different from you!
Our world, our nations, our community is a reflection of who we are. We are imperfect and sinful and continue to be in need of a Savior. May we continue to embrace the Lord’s teaching as we allow him to search us, purify our hearts, and align our motives.
Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalms 139:23-24
May God purify us individually and collectively, and lead us to true Conciliation, and Community.
At the end of our journey on this earth, on this imperfect, sinful world, may we be found faithful to the calling to which Christ has called us. May we lament, worship and pray, empathize with others, resolve to act on their behalf, and comfort all those who mourn. May we be found faithful.