My heart is troubled upon hearing the most recent news of yet another wayward son whose struggle became deadly. We have all seen and heard the reports of the deadly shooting in Omaha, NE. It is difficult to imagine such despair; a hopelessness that could cause such anger put into action in a Mall during this Season of Hope.
"Now, I'll be famous." These were four of his last words, spoken during a disturbing phone call to the mother of the family he had lived with for the past year. No doubt, a mental breakdown leaves one with a distorted perception, however, I also believe another contributing factor is the 24/7 media coverage of every incident like this that leads a young man, struggling for purpose, longing for acceptance to believe that he can find esteem, even in infamy. However, I am convinced there is a spiritual dimension that is in play as well.
In the temptation of Christ, found in Matthew 4: 1-11, Satan, the "father of lies" (John 8:44), offered fame to Jesus during the isolation of a forty day and forty night fast in the desert. With every temptation, Jesus responded, "It is written....." ""It is also written....." "For it is written...." Oh that everyone who is seeking satisfaction, longing for acceptance, yearning for peace--could find the the healing power of God's written Word (Hebrews 4:12).
In all honesty, I don't know the young man who struggled so throughout his life only to end it in such a desperate way. And yet, I could. For any parent of a prodigal, this tragedy only reminds us how horribly wrong their wayward journey could become.
I don't know his parents, his siblings, or his loved ones; and yet, we all could be one of them. "There but the grace of God, go I" has a familiar ring at such a time as this. Subconciously, I think we all feel this; sadly, our fear is often voiced in criticism. "Where were his parents?" "What did they do wrong?" "Why didn't they do something to prevent this?" At the heart of this criticism is a lie that suggests if, as parents, we do everything right, nothing will go wrong. Not only is this an untruth in our post modern secular thinking, it is spiritually unfounded.
While a tragedy like this offers very little to be thankful for, I am thankful that, as Christians, we can bring a different perspective to this. A perspective that is found within the Word of God. The Word of God is "living and active...[it is] sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." What is the attitude of your heart today as you reflect on this very public but personal tragedy?
"I feel like there is nothing I can do" is another familiar refrain at such a time like this. As Christians, however, even in the midst of the most horrendous situations, there is always something we can do: we must pray!
Colossians 3:16 "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God."
Pray for the victims of this Mall shooting, pray for the families who are grieving during this Holy Season, pray for the family of this young man who has caused so much pain in his despair. Let's make a difference today; let's put our faith into action as we stand apart from the relentless reporting and critiquing. May your world see that "the Word of Christ" dwells "richly in you" as you hold all of the victims of this heartwrenching tragedy in prayer today.
2 Corinthians 1:4 "...who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God."
Aren't you grateful that our God "comforts us in all our troubles"!
Aren't you grateful that our God has provided a way to reach out to others--even though unknown!
Aren't you grateful that God uses the experiences of our own pain for the future comfort of others!
I am thankful to join you in prayer today for those, known and unknown, who are hurting today.