Once again, mass gun violence has scared our country with the senseless death of 58 people together with hundreds of others who were injured at a Country Western concert in Las Vegas this past Sunday. The cold calculations of historical statisticians tell us that this was the largest mass killing in modern U.S. history. Behind the chilling numbers lie the poignant stories of women and men who at one moment were reveling in the joy of music and friendship, then, in an instant, they were taken from us.
Whenever one of these, tragically, all too commonplace shootings occur in our country, there are the predictable responses. Second Amendment advocates cling ever more tenaciously to their weapons – a well ordered militia unto themselves; the silence of the NRA, waiting for the hysteria to blow over; the plaintive plea from a segment of congress advocating for a modicum of gun control laws, again. However, nothing seems to change except for the deepening anxiety that is felt by a growing number of our brothers and sisters that feel the vulnerability of daily existence in a world gone mad.
It is to this ‘world gone mad’ that God’s holy word today comes as a soothing balm, to calm our hearts with its timeless admonition:
Have no anxiety at all, but in everything,
by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving,
make your requests known to God.
Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding
will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
The cynic might say, ‘easier said than done!” But, for those who have found in Christ the touchstone of their lives, these words come as a healing reminder that you and I are held in the everlasting embrace of a God who will never let the darkness of this world have a final say in our lives.
So often, the anxiety that you and I encounter, is tied to a desperate sense of meaninglessness or purposelessness that unsettles our restless hearts. Undoubtedly, the opioid epidemic that is ravaging so many in our land is rooted in the desire to quickly fill that void, to provide the quick fix of fleeting pleasure and momentary escape. However, as in all addictions, when that momentary pleasure passes, we are plunged deeper into the darkness.
God’s word does not promise that we will live lives free from anxiety but rather amid life’s inevitable challenges, we are assured of a companion who has walked that path himself – who knows our sorrows, one acquainted with our grief – and who will gift us with a peace that is rooted in his unfailing and unconditional love.
One of the passages of scripture that has always been a source of strength, courage and comfort for me, is found in the First letter of St. John, where the author reminds us that, perfect love casts out all fear (1 Jn. 4:18). So often the courage of the brave is rooted in their knowing that they are not alone, that they are sustained by the support of those who carry them in love. Prisoners of war endure their unspeakable deprivations because they know that they are loved. Where love is absent, despair abounds. Where love is present, hope abounds.
God’s love for us, my friends, is perfect. Surrendering to that truth can free us to face with courage and hope, the darkest moments of life’s journey: Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.