And though this world, with devils filled should threaten to undo us;
We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us…
It’s been the kind of news cycle I hate! (And let’s not even talk about the weather!)
There is so much evil being acted out in the world, that it could be overwhelming. Does one get more upset about senseless deaths in a terrorist act? People dying because of corruption and violence in their homeland? A rock star losing hope and OD’ing? Or the ridiculous, petty politics being played out in the Capitol building?
Then there’s the personal, real-life emotional, physical and psychological pain that I know about in my family’s and friends’ lives. The moments where I beseech heaven for wisdom and grace and patience (when I have none) seem far too frequent these days.
If I only comment on one of these on Facebook, does that mean I don’t care about the others? If I can only financially contribute to one cause, does that mean the others are beyond my commitments? As one of my friends once wisely said to me, “the need does not define the Call.” It does not mean that I don’t care. It just means that God has pushed one or two of these to the forefront. For those I will work and help and support however I can. And the others I will trust that God is “pushing” others in the Body of Christ to step up to their responsibilities.
I’ve learned in my chaplaincy work that I can’t carry every family’s load. I can pray (and do with fervor!) that they will be loved and supported through whatever issues they are facing. But I know that I am only “their” pastor while I am in the hospital with them. As much as I can, I encourage them to reach out to “home folks” — pastors or rabbis, friends, leaders in their faith groups — who will be with them in the next days, weeks and months of adjustment and change.
So while I pray for Oslo, or grieve the loss of another young musician, I can also pray for God to send God’s people into those dark places where I have not been asked to go. When I was sad for my friends’ losses in Joplin, I prayed for God’s grace and courage to help them. When I see photos of a desperate mother holding her starving child, I pray knowing that God holds her needs close, too. When I heard stories of prejudice, of hate crimes, of political bickering I ask for the Way of God to prevail.
Maybe it’s because we saw The Deathly Hallows, Part 2 this evening. But I couldn’t help but sense that these horrible events are not “the end of the world.” They are tragic, confusing, angering and even discouraging. But just as evil did not triumph at Hogwarts, neither will it forever rule this earth. And this gives me hope.
Tonight as I was reading and praying through the headlines, the hymn “A Mighty Fortress” by Martin Luther came to mind. As I went and re-read the words, I went digging because I remembered a second translation of the German lyrics – and helped freshen the power of the words. They are attributed to Thomas Carlyle:
A safe stronghold our God is still, a trusty shield and weapon;
he’ll keep us clear from all the ill that hath us now o’ertaken.
The ancient prince of hell hath risen with purpose fell;
strong mail of craft and power he weareth in this hour;
on earth is not his fellow.
With force of arms we nothing can, full soon were we down-ridden;
but for us fights the proper Man, whom God himself hath bidden.
Ask ye, who is this same? Christ Jesus is his name,
the Lord Sabaoth’s Son; he, and no other one,
shall conquer in the battle.
And were this world all devils o’er are watching to devour us,
we lay it not to heart so sore; nor they can overpower us.
And let the prince of ill look grim as e’er he will,
he harms us not a whit; for why?–his doom is writ;
a word shall quickly slay him.
God’s word, for all their craft and force, one moment will not linger,
but, spite of hell, shall have its course; ’tis written by his finger.
And though they take our life, goods, honor, children, wife,
yet is their profit small; these things shall vanish all:
the City of God remaineth!
So life can truly suck at times… but in my heart of hearts, I know “these things shall vanish all…”