Suffering is part of the human experience. As much as we’d like to and as much as we try, we cannot avoid suffering in our lives. M. Shawn Copeland writes in the book A Troubling in My Soul: Womanist Perspectives on Evil & Suffering, “suffering is universal, an inescapable fact of the human condition; it defies immunities of all kinds. Suffering despoils women and men irrespective of race or tongue, wealth or poverty, learning or virtue; disregards merit or demerit, reward or punishment, honor or corruption. Like sun and rain, suffering comes unbidden to the just and the unjust alike.”
Many are seeking answers after the most recent tragedies inside the holy walls of places of worship. On Sunday, brothers and sisters in Christ, adults and children, faced the most unimaginable terror in Sutherland Springs, TX. Twenty-six lives came to an abrupt end and many more were forever changed. We desire to respond with prayer and pray our prayers lead to action. We act to serve our neighbors, tend to the brokenhearted, and understand our grief. We seek out justice, pursue healing, and preserver through the worst of valleys.
In a press conference on Tuesday, November 7th, the Rev. Frank Pomeroy, the pastor of Sutherland Springs Baptist Church, made a statement about how he is processing the tragedy that not only took members of his church family but also his daughter. “I don’t understand, but I know my God does.”
We are living in an era of tremendous fear. Places of education, of employment, and even houses of worship are being invaded by evil and violence. Peace among humanity is strained and the tensions are palpable. As we seek out answers, Jesus calls us to remember that we do not walk through the valleys alone. We walk with the Lord and seek Gods face. We are called to be still and know our God. We are told throughout scripture, from angels and prophets and disciples, do not fear. When the sorrows begin to swell, fear not.
The forty-first chapter of Isaiah offers us assurance of God’s help in times of trembling. Isaiah 41:10 tells us “Do not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.” Though we may desire to cease our regular activities in times of uncertainty, God calls us to carry on. When evil and tragedy strike the church, the church doors shall remain open. When evil seeks to kill and destroy, the church remains a beacon of light that seeks to heal and bring life.
Rev. Pomeroy called on people to lean on the Lord rather than their own understanding. His call comes from Proverbs 3:5 where we are encouraged to “trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight.” Brothers and sisters, we cannot understand evil as evil is its own thing. We can not understand how precious children of all ages could have their lives taken while worshipping on a Sunday morning. We cannot understand the senseless mass shootings that are plaguing our communities, but we can resist fear. We can turn to God and place our trust and faith in our Savior. We can work as agents of change in our communities as the hands, feet, and mouths of Christ. We can keep worshipping our Lord and resisting evil in whatever forms it presents itself.
This life is a precious gift. We have not been guaranteed tomorrow nor have we been promised a life without sorrow. In this season of Thanks Giving, let us live our lives in gratitude for every moment we have. Let us hold our children and loved ones a little tighter. Let us worship God with more abandon then we’ve mustered in the recent past. Let us cling to the Gospel as the Good News that it is. Let us savor each day we have as one more day to live fully for Christ.
The words of hymn writer Horatio G. Spafford say it best: “when peace, like a river, attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll; whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say, It is well, it is well with my soul.”
Printed in the Shawnee News Star November 11th, 2017, Ministers Corner