Summer has come and gone in what seems like less than a blink of an eye and we are once again embarking on an autumn full of new activities, homework, busy-ness that permeates nearly every moment of our lives. I often find myself wondering if we choose to fill our days with so much stuff because we are hoping to outrun the tragedies and burdens that seemingly encircle us more and more closely with every passing moment. From mass shootings to natural disasters; from kidnapped children to murdered college students, it all feels as though evil has indeed overtaken every inch of the world.
And yet I know this is not the case.
How can I possibly state this, you ask? In all seriousness, the media coverage shows us all day after day what a disaster our world has become. It seems not just irrational, but nearly insane, to think that evil isn’t winning. And in all honesty, if I were to merely look at the headlines or look into the eyes of those around me who have lost loved ones so tragically, I could agree with you.
But I see more than the headlines.
I find myself turning my eyes from the grief-stricken ones in front of me to the sky, knowing that despite what the media says, my God is still in control. And I can say this with absolute certainty because even in times of grief and mourning so profound words cannot be uttered, eyes still turn heavenward.
Take, for example, Mollie Tibbits, the young woman found murdered just last week. Despite the tragic circumstances of her passing, her friends and family are supporting one another, loving each other through this, and offering prayers, memories and reminders of the beauty that is still around them. While there is understandable anger and overwhelming grief, the family has also thanked God for giving them the gift of being able to find Mollie and to so quickly find answers to at least a few of their questions. This community has circled together, supporting and loving the family that had brought the accused young man to their community and has chosen to see the blessing in the fact that Mollie is with God.
This young woman’s tragic end has made an impact on our country as whole by giving over 34 thousand people a way to connect via The Mollie Movement and giving them tangible ways to show love and support to people in the state of Iowa and around the country.
Yes, I know. This is just one incident. There are hundreds of thousands of people every moment of every day who are dealing with significant tragedy – loved ones who went missing and have never been found, significant acts of violence that have destroyed lives even though physical bodies survived, and on and on. In all of these instances, something happened in the blink of an eye that changed not just an individuals’ world forever, but the lives of all that intersect with that person and nothing can be done to change return things to their previous state…
…And yet God is there for each and every one of these people at every moment.
Now I get it. From a human perspective, it all seems so unfair. We cannot wrap our minds around why such things can possibly happen if there is a loving God in the heavens let alone in our midst. But as I’ve said over and over again, this life isn’t about us individually.
At least as I see it, our job here on earth is to learn to be God for those around us. That means learning the difficult things like having to be the hands and feet for him during a tragedy, learning to be voice of compassion to one who is struggling even when you don’t understand the struggle, and perhaps most difficult of all, reflecting the grace and mercy of God to those who cause tragic events to occur in the first place. I know this sounds impossible and if we choose to keep our eyes focused downward, it will never happen.
But if we choose instead to look to the heavens and remember that God sent His son to show us how to do just that, it can be done. The hardest part is to remember that even those we consider to be the worst of humanity were still created by God.
And God is always good. All the time.
God is entirely perfect, entirely good, entirely loving and entirely omnipotent. He has created a world in which we can come to love him and trust Him despite the trials and pains of this world. Faith would not be faith were we not faced with challenges too large to comprehend. We wouldn’t have needed Jesus to be a living example of how to live in God’s image by walking this earth if our time were wasn’t going to be difficult. And Jesus wouldn’t have had to die a terrible and painful death if we didn’t need to be shown that our plans and our goals for our lives and the lives of others cannot fulfill God’s perfect plan.
The bottom line is this. None of us know what piece of the tapestry we are called to complete. We do not know what choices we will make that will cause significant ripple effects on the lives of those around us. And none of us know when our faith will be tested by circumstances beyond our control. What God wants each of us to know – what He cries to us from the heavens in every circumstance – is that He is in control and that if we just turn our eyes to Him, He will create goodness out of every moment, the good and the horrible.