It's times like these I often have the song "Dirty Laundry" by the Eagles playing in my head: "She can tell you 'bout the plane crash with a gleam in her eyes. It's interesting when people die, give us dirty laundry."
Tragedies such as what we've been recently experiencing are gut-wrenching, emotional nightmares for most of us. We want to be informed, but we don't want to be completely bombarded. It's as though the ratings war is far more important than what we're feeling right now. You cannot turn on the television without flipping through channel after channel of the same pictures, the same dry lines, the same in-your-face lack of emotion as you get the facts... then the new facts... then the speculation... then the interview with someone who knows someone who lives near where the tragedy happened... then the new facts... and the same video clip approximately 457,935 times.
No one is really getting to the heart of the matter, and that's because none of us can pinpoint quite what the heart of the matter is.
Wherever we are across the country, this is affecting us. Boston is a 13.5 hour drive from where I live. I am not living in the fear that the one rogue bombing suspect will break my door down seeking shelter from the manhunt. I am not living in fear that the next thing to be bombed is the horse farm north of my house. I am, for all intents and purposes, safe. Yet, there is a pervasive sense of fear all over the country for a myriad of reasons.
School shootings have hit small towns and big ones. Movie theater shoot-outs have come with no warning. Our own little school systems here in this area have been hit with threats and warnings two years in a row. As 'safe' as I think I am, or hope to be, I'm not. More and more people have been overwhelmed by anxiety lately, and it comes with a good explanation. Anxiety is a sense of impending doom. How can any of us live in this day and age and NOT feel a sense of impending doom?
But what hope is there for humanity? How can we stare into the face of such depravity and muster any hope?
When our senses fail us, when humanity has failed us, when we feel unsettled and overwhelmed, there is nothing left to do but what we should be doing in the first place, and that's to turn to the promises that are given to each and every one of us.
2 Peter 1:4 begins our hope by saying, "...These are the promises that enable you to share His divine nature and escape the corruption of the world brought on by human desires." That's what we're looking for. We're looking for hope in the face of tragedy, both recent and upcoming. This is, by no means, the extent of what's going to happen in the world.
Isaiah 40:30-31 says, "But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint." Even when we feel like we can't go on, we can. We keep our heads held high, we walk in the light, we do not succumb to the darkness, and we become the bearers of hope.
In light of the Boston Marathon bombing, Facebook exploded with a post from Patton Oswalt (actor/comedian). In it, he said this:
"You watch the videos of the carnage and there are people running TOWARDS the destruction to help out. [...] This is a giant planet and we're lucky to live on it but there are prices and penalties incurred for the daily miracle of existence. One of them is, every once in awhile, the wiring of a tiny sliver of the species gets snarled and they're pointed towards darkness.
But the vast majority stands against that darkness and, like white blood cells attacking a virus, they dilute and weaken and eventually wash away the evil doers and, more importantly, the damage they wreak. This is beyond religion or creed or nation. We would not be here if humanity were inherently evil. We'd have eaten ourselves alive long ago.
So when you spot violence, or bigotry, or intolerance or fear or just garden-variety misogyny, hatred or ignorance, just look it in the eye and think, 'The good outnumber you, and we always will.'"
It's incredible how an intense positive spirit and attitude can overcome even the most tragic of events. During school shootings, we've had heroes who kept their students safe or even those who have taken a bullet for others. In bombings, we've had not just police and firefighters help out, but garden variety human beings with little to no training who just want to help in any way they can. You cannot fight evil with evil. You can only overcome evil with good, and that's straight out of the bible as well...
Romans 12:21 says "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." It's easy to allow ourselves to get stuck in the mire of sadness and tragedy but never forget that we can rise above, move forward, and create a better life. One person can't change the world but, working together, we can overcome our own personal hatreds and maybe that can usher in a little more of God's Kingdom right here on earth. When Jesus taught us to pray in Matthew 6, it was for exactly that purpose:
"...Your Kingdom come; Your will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven."
This doesn't mean "let's get out of this place and get to Heaven"... it means "let's bring a slice of Heaven down here on Earth until the time comes when we CAN be in Heaven".
All we can do is our own part, each and every day.
Pray for people.
Listen to people.
Spend time with people.
Smile at people.
And, above all else, love people... even when they've given you no reason to do so.