What Do We Do with Random Acts of Violence?
Lucinda Secrest McDowell
Will we ever get used to hearing that there has been a mass murder of innocent people? In a church? In a theatre? In a school? In an office? In a nightclub?
I hope not.
I hope we remain horrified. And utterly saddened. I hope we never get blasé or resigned to this kind of life.
Because then “they” would win. The ones who hate. The ones who crave power or fame or just some twisted sense of belonging to something big.
I will not live in fear! Not for myself, not for my children and grandchildren, most of whom reside in large prominent cities – high target zones.
But I will cry. For the ones who are lost. And for the ones they left behind who must relive the violence and loss over and over again. And I will cry out. Against terror. For laws that might protect. I will cry out that there must be a better way.
God — the One who created us and loves us all — knows lament. Have you read the Psalms lately?
O Lord, how long will you forget me? Forever? How long will you look the other way? How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul, with sorrow in my heart every day? How long will my enemy have the upper hand? Turn and answer me, O Lord my God! Restore the sparkle to my eyes, or I will die. Don’t let my enemies gloat, saying, “We have defeated him!” Don’t let them rejoice at my downfall. But I trust in your unfailing love. I will rejoice because you have rescued me. I will sing to the Lord because he is good to me. (Psalm 13)
How long, O Lord? How long will the wicked be allowed to gloat? How long will they speak with arrogance? How long will these evil people boast? They crush your people, Lord, hurting those you claim as your own. Who will protect me from the wicked? Who will stand up for me against evildoers? Unless the Lord had helped me, I would soon have settled in the silence of the grave. I cried out, “I am slipping!” but your unfailing love, O Lord, supported me. When doubts filled my mind, your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer. …But the Lord is my fortress; my God is the mighty rock where I hide. (portions of Psalm 94)
Are you devastated by the random acts of violence in our world today? (And the targeted acts of violence?)
What do we do with our pain?
I don’t have all the answers. But I know where to turn.
To God. In lament. In lament, a petitioner addresses God on some occasion of calamity. This is a process.
If you (like me) are feeling helpless and hopeless, may I suggest you join me by reading one of the Psalms of Lament in the Bible and then, using the same elements, experience your own Prayer of Lament:
- Be still and enter God’s presence. Invite Him to sit with you in your sorrow and confusion. This is usually best done in silence.
- Talk through the painful or evil situation that happened which is causing such grief and horror. Articulate your feelings as you think of the suffering and injustice.
- Wait and allow God to speak into your heart and soul as you continue to intercede in prayer for the people, places and circumstances of this tragedy.
- Identify with those involved and call out to God in honesty. Yes, lament. Articulate your complaint and confusion and even anger to God. He can take it.
- Know that our God is a God of compassion. Take time to confess your trust in God’s power and provision – in His sovereignty. Use your own words.
- Listen for God’s word of assurance to you. And then write those words to yourself and perhaps share them with your community so desperate for answers. Sometimes the greatest answer is God saying “I am here.”
- Conclude with an offering to God that you will praise Him for who He is – and that you know the end of the story is His ultimate victory.
Sometimes this is all we can do in the face of violence, tragedy, fear, anger, pain and grief.
But it’s a beginning…
under the mercy, Cindy
I would love to share more words of Refuge and Hope with you from my just released book “Dwelling Places.”
And, dear ones, if by any chance you have read this book, please kindly take a few moments to post a short REVIEW on Amazon or ChristianBook. I will love you forever!