This past Sunday I was preaching a sermon on anxiety and worry and was completely unaware of the events surrounding the worst mass shooting in United States history. I had not seen any news that morning and had no idea the 29 year old shooter had opened fire inside an Orlando, Florida club where 50 people were killed and 53 more were injured. It was not until later that afternoon I heard reports of the tragedy. God help us!
The news of such violent atrocities comes to us too frequently these days. So much so that we may become numb or dull to these events. Even more so our anxiety and worry increases. We live in apprehension of when and where the next evil event will occur. The words of Paul that I was ironically preaching on Sunday morning are very timely in light of these events. Here’s his inspiration to us:
Have you prayed about it? Paul encourages us to not be “anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6). No matter how frequently such catastrophes occur, our first response should always be to turn to God in prayer. Some stories are just too much for us to fathom; some evil just too great to grasp; some losses beyond all comprehension. But we are summoned to pray in everything. Pray for the victims. Pray for the perpetrator. Pray for peace that guards our hearts and minds.
In the same context (Philippians 4:8), Paul encourages us to think on things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent and worthy of praise. Unfortunately, that is not usually our first response to these tragedies. Instead, we immediately turn to the news and social media. I am not saying that you can’t find those things on the television or the computer but most often what we find or what we voice is vented frustration and contested opinions. We get caught up in arguments about gun control, immigration policies and race and religion wars. We rush to the computer to air out our anger rather than turning to God and the truth of His Word. We advocate change on Capitol Hill rather than listening to the change God might want to do in us and through us. Have you spend time thinking on God’s truth?
Lastly, Paul encourages us to “practice these things” (Philippians 4:9). Yes, we should grieve the senseless violation of human life. But as Christians we should offer the world the love and hope of Jesus. The answer is not on Capitol Hill. The answer is not in the Supreme Court Building. The answer is not in the White House. The answer is Jesus! As followers of Christ we can not simply shut out the pain and despair but in our sorrow and distress we can bring light and healing through the good news of Jesus. Are you practicing these things?
God help us! Help us find the peace which “surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7). Help us hit our knees in prayer, think on the truth of your Word and live in such a way your light is reflected in our dark world!