How do we move on after great tragedies? Especially when they seem to happen every week? 27 dead in a church shooting. 8 dead in New York by a man who drive his truck into a bicycle path. 58 dead in Las Vegas at a concert. And that’s all within the last month of this article’s publication.
In a way, asking “How do we move on” is the wrong question. We don’t “move on.” We shouldn’t. But… where do you go from here? How do you continue living without the burden of fear and anxiety at every turn?
People either call for political reform to ensure future safety, or they turn to prayer without seeking worldly solutions. As Christians, how do we think about and process these tragedies?
God is Our Refuge
The Psalms continually refer to God as a refuge. He is the shelter in the storm. The protector from enemies. The shepherd who cares and provides for his sheep.
A refuge is a safe place in the midst of great danger. During peacetime, there is no need for a refuge. The Christian trusts in God as their refuge… not because God always keeps us safe, but because God allows us to live in the middle of serious danger. Anyone who reads through large portions of the Psalms will notice how frequently the writers plead with God for protection from enemies. Danger is a reality of life, and God has simply never promised comfort… instead, the Psalms remind us that in the present of terror and threats and fear… we turn to the Lord as our refuge.
“The Lord is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid?”
“God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble at its swelling.”
“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say to the Lord, ‘My refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.'”
What Does That Mean?
Calling God a refuge in times of danger sounds nice, but what does it mean?
- Remember that God overcame sin and death. All the pain and suffering in this world are the result of sin and its affects… and God has overcome sin and death through the life, death, resurrection, and eventual return of Jesus Christ. Victory has been secured, although it is not yet fully applied. The Christian’s ultimate and foundational hope must be built upon Jesus Christ who rose from the grave. His bodily resurrection is proof of the power of God to finally and ultimately deliver the hope and life and joy we long for. Revelation 5:9 proclaims Jesus’ worthiness to deliver final salvation and judgment, “Worthy are you to take the cross and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every time and language and people and nation.”
- Our hearts are filled with trust in God, not in fear of man. We must live with an eternal perspective. In Matthew 10:28 Jesus says, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” This leads us to live with Christian priorities, not worldly ones that are marked by the American Dream.
- We remember there is more to life than physical safety. While our bodies may be in danger, our souls are secure. Romans 8:18 inspires great hope, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” No Christian should allow the promise of glory to permit a careless attitude to this world, but I’m concerned that more Christians today have forgotten God’s glorious promises… and we’ve settled for “heaven on earth” instead. Live with God’s promise of glory in mind.
- God is trustworthy even in our pain and suffering. Yes, God allows us to suffer. That is difficult to accept, but we know the promise of Romans 8:28, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,for those who are called according to his purpose.” We do not understand everything that happens, but we trust that in the big picture, all things will work together for good according to God’s plan.
- We run to God in the midst of stress, danger, or anxiety. Since a refuge is where you go for security and protection – turning to God should be our first action. Colossians 3:2 urges us to, “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:2). Christians turn to God by prayer, by searching the Scriptures, and through godly counsel from other mature Christians. Too often, we turn to worldly comforts (food, alcohol, and other ‘escapes’) or we simply vent with friends. We are more secure in Christ than we would be in midst of the most powerful army.
We mourn with those who mourn, and we trust God as our refuge and strength in the midst of trouble.