This morning, it doesn’t take long for the difficult words from this past Sunday to come whispering back into my mind… “Rejoice always. Pray continually. Give thanks in all circumstances.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18a)
The world is broken, and mourning the loss of so many young lives. Attackers stormed a school, with automatic weapons and the indifference of knowing they too were going to die, and killed over 126 people – mostly young children. Largely between the ages of 12 and 16, the victims were just beginning to have grand thoughts about what to do with their lives. Daydreaming, passing notes, and looking forward to the weekend….many of their lives ended without being able to express what was really on their hearts and minds.
My prayers are with them this morning. The community that weeps. The parents whose homes have been torn apart. The friends who’ve lost their classmates. The young loves who’ve lost the one they were inspired by. The students who’ve lost a teacher. May God bring comfort, even to those who may not be able to give name to the source.
Certainly God didn’t have any of these scenes in mind when He gave us the words of Paul to the church in Thessalonica. Surely if God would have known we’d have things like this happening, he would have given a different command. Something closer to, “Rejoice when you can. Pray if you can spare the time. Give thanks before you lose it.” But we know better than that. Even as Paul gave those words, God’s people had known immense suffering. God looked across the suffering that would come to His people, and painted a picture of who we are to be…even in the midst of the brokenness of our world.
Not those who avoid it. Not those who seek it. But those who seek God’s presence in the midst of whatever may come. Those who are able to suffer with those who suffer, have “compassion”, and simultaneously be comforted by a God who has promised He is with us. Those who are able to celebrate blessings in life with the humility that sees the reality much larger than the moment. Those who recognize that the only way we become people with hearts grounded in God’s reality is to be those who “pray continually”. Not starry-eyed false hope that someday this suffering will all make sense. But a solid foundation of hope that today, right now, even in the midst of brokenness and ugly humanity – there is the presence of a God who says through His tears….”I love you. I am with you. Listen to my voice, and receive life that transforms.”
We cannot throw extra God-presence in a box, wrap it, and ship it to those suffering from this tragedy. But we can allow these moments to call forth transformation in our own lives. Give yourself time to pray today. Rejoice, as one Beloved by the Son. Spend time both speaking AND listening to the voice of our Father who loves you. Give thanks for the movement of the Spirit that brings New Life.
Allow yourself to feel the story, even in the midst of a day/news-hour that moves right on to the next thing. Allow the pain in your heart to enable you to cry out to God with them….”Lord, come. Lord….come.” And know that He has. Know that He is. Know that He will…