In a world dealing with soaring inflation, supply shortages, a stumbling economy, our third year of a global pandemic, and the edge of world war, we are learning to grow numb to the constant barrage of crisis and tragedy. But the death of innocent children seems to startle our attention still. We may not know how to respond and have even grown frustrated and jaded over the lack of effective response – but we watch. Even if we don’t know the children or their families, empathy is easier. The mourning touches us deeper.
While watching the NBA playoffs this week, I observed the moments of silence and tributes to those killed in yet another senseless mass shooting. I remembered two years ago, amid the pandemic playoffs of 2020, several NBA teams canceled their games to protest racial violence. The players wore jerseys to promote their social justice cause, and the country’s ongoing racial injustices became a subplot plot to the playoffs in the bubble. There were also killings, violence, and a sense of hopelessness intermixed with national division and frustration at that time.
Tragedy is becoming our national way of life. We watch, express our shock, and change our social medial profile photos; then time passes, little changes, and we wait for the next tragedy.
A giant flag waves over an auto dealership in the middle of our town. I realized this week that I am more surprised when it is NOT flying at half-staff to mark a national tragedy than when it is.
It is bad enough when tragedy strikes, but it seems worse when the state of our society is so divided that each new terrible event transitions into the terrain upon which we yell at one another. In recent years, the waves of horrible news have not calmed or sobered us. They have made us angrier, louder, and pushed us farther apart.
An unsettling pattern has taken hold when tragedy strikes our society. We gasp and shake our heads when we hear what happened. We collectively mourn for a brief moment. Then we take sides. Unfortunately, the gap between our learning about the tragedy and taking sides seems to be shrinking.
Human nature needs someone to blame. We need a scapegoat of some sort to place the sins on and explain this is the reason for our pain. Fix this, and we will fix the problem.
Unfortunately, life and our society don’t usually work that way. The dilemma is worsened by the fact that our national dialogue and worldview are framed almost exclusively within the construct of politics. We find our explanations for life in the domain of politics. It is not enough to point our fingers at the shooter. Who empowered and armed him? Who failed to monitor him? Who set him off? Who failed to stop him?
To answer these questions, our leaders give us political explanations and solutions. Gun control. Arm the teachers. Immigration reform. Monitor those with mental health issues. These are the different issues I have heard in the aftermath of Uvalde.
None of the proposals in these areas will work because they are all political solutions to an issue that, at its core, is not political. If we completely outlaw guns, deranged murderers will still break the laws and commit mass killings. If we arm every teacher, the killings will continue. Native born Americans will kill just as many if not more as immigrants and their children.
Every one of these areas deserves some attention and reform, but politics is not the real issue and should not dominate the perspective of those called to be the salt of the earth and light of the world (Matthew 5:13,14). We need to recognize the all too dominant reality that our society is imploding. Fractured human hearts bearing the weight of an increasingly oppressive darkness are stumbling and falling.
Politics, on the left and the right, is a false religion that presumes to provide answers to the splintering of the human heart this generation is experiencing. Like all false religions, it is a vain hope.
We Do Not Shrink Back
In the face of a generation where darkness is rising and covering the earth, we must see beyond the political narratives and explanations and recognize deeper realities at play. The chaos, from mass shootings to racial violence and food shortages to pandemics, is not simply a matter of politics. Yes, political systems and ideologies are failing, but they are failing because the human beings who carry them are collapsing.
Yet, we are called to let our light shine amid a generation of rising darkness. Allowing our light to shine in the darkness means we do not retreat into despair. It also means we do not hide our light under a bushel. Too many believers are covering their light under the cover of political arguments. We can care about politics without engaging in the arguments. That front is a failing one. Only God’s grace can heal the human spirit’s core issues that need touching in these tragedies.
So do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord. Remember the great reward it brings you! Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised.
“For in just a little while,
the Coming One will come and not delay.
And my righteous ones will live by faith.
But I will take no pleasure in anyone who turns away.”
But we are not like those who turn away from God to their own destruction. We are the faithful ones, whose souls will be saved. Hebrews 10:35-39 (NLT)
We do not shrink back in despair or outrage. When we see our neighbors doing either, we should recognize that the yelling and the silence are both responses of human souls frustrated and neutralized by the darkness.
He Is Still On His Throne
The Lord is unsurprised by the chaos. Not one jot or tittle, not one centimeter of today’s tragedies or the tragedies that tomorrow will bring, is beyond his purview.
The floods have lifted up, O LORD,
The floods have lifted up their voice;
The floods lift up their waves.
The LORD on high is mightier
Than the noise of many waters,
Than the mighty waves of the sea.
Psalms 93:3-4 (NKJV)
We, the children of the light, can take hope in this constant and steady reality that undergirds our present crisis and all of eternity. This is the flame that causes our light to shine in the face of tragedy.
The question “why” cries out from the darkness of tragedy. Those who live in the light pause at that instinctual response and remember “Who” is in charge. We praise Him even if we do not understand. We trust Him even if we cannot explain. Because God remains on His throne, the darkness cannot defeat us.
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed— 2 Corinthians 4:7-9 (NKJV)
Let Your Light Shine
From Buffalo to Uvalde and Mariupol to Amhara, May has been a terrible month of tragedy and darkness. Next month may be even worse. Now more than ever, the light of God needs to shine in our hearts and homes. The light needs to shine in the areas of the world God has placed us.
This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. 1 John 1:5-7 (NKJV)
We can choose to join in the quagmires of outraged polarization and political futility or draw our answers and responses from another source. Many who profess to walk in the light are discovering that religious platitudes lack the strength and substance needed in the dark and dying generations we live. We need to go deeper! Now is the time for the children of the Kingdom of God’s life and light to stand and demonstrate a higher way of holiness to peace and truth.