Summary: In confusing times of tragedy and loss like many Americans are facing at the present time, it is hard to make sense of it all. The Psalmist gives us encouragement to seek understanding and confidence in the "sanctuary" of God’s presence.
The Source of My Hope
I heard on the news this past week that one of the outcomes of what has happened since the September 11th attack on America has been a rush on bookstores around the country. The sale of Bibles is up and that is good news. Alongside of this good news is the report that the sale of books about Islam is up even more than the sale of Bibles. Also, the sale of books dealing with depression is up substantially since the September 11th attack. I don’t have any problem believing this news. I believe people are desperate to find hope when tragedy or crisis visits us. The Bible is the greatest source of hope ever known to humanity so it is only natural that Bibles would be flying off the shelf at places like Barnes and Noble, Mardel’s, and Borders. Most people don’t know much about the religion of those who attacked our country, even though there are 1 billion followers of Islam around the world. Inquiring minds need to know so we buy books explaining Islam to us. It is this last bit of information that really caught my attention - books dealing with depression are flying off the shelves.
That caught my attention more than the other news, not because I was shocked at the news. No, not at all. Actually, the news was a confirmation of the feelings that I have been carrying around all week long. Dealing with the images of devastation that continue to fill the airwaves, hearing personal testimonies of loss and shattered hopes, and being told about potential further attacks is enough for all of us to deal with today. I wish that were all we had to deal with for many months to come, but there is much more for us to deal with isn’t there? There has been heartache upon heartache waiting for many of us since the deaths of over 6,000 of our neighbors to the Northeast.
To put some flesh and bones on this idea and allow you to understand what I am talking about let me share with you the stories of some of my friends that I have heard just this past week. On Monday morning I visited University Hospital with Joe Morgan, Daniel Money, and Ruth Ross. When we arrived, Jo Fischer and David Nave’s family greeted us. They were trying to bring him some comfort. His struggle has been long and grueling. David’s family has watched diabetes ravage his body and slowly take his legs, the use of his hand, and so much more for the past several years now.
On Monday morning he was struggling to find some rest, some relief from the pain that painkillers couldn’t pacify. When I left David’s room we all joined hands and prayed for the Lord to end David’s pain and take him home. That is a reasonable prayer for someone to pray when they are removed from the situation, but for those whose love runs deep, saying the final "good bye" is heartrending even when we want the struggle to end.
Later in the day I went to the County Jail to visit two of my friends. Seeing them paying their debt to society, seeing them caged like animals in an antiquated zoo, was part of the consequences of their breaking the law. I know that, but when they are people you love - it breaks your heart.
I left the County Jail to go back to the hospital to see David’s family once again. We talked, but it was hard to give our full attention to one another with Dave lying there agonizing. We held hands and once again cried out to God for mercy through our tears. I left the room aching for Dave’s family. Then they called about ten minutes later to tell me that the Lord had heard our prayers and David had passed away. I was thrilled that God’s mercy had wrapped Dave’s pain in its grace, but I have to admit that my heart broke knowing that I would not share this life with my friend any longer.
The next day I received a call from a friend telling me about another friend’s 12-year-old daughter who had attempted suicide. She asked if I would call her. I got on the phone and listened, feeling so inadequate as this precious mother who loves her daughter more than her own life, shared her broken heart with me. If her grief were not enough, she met another mother while she was at the hospital visiting her daughter. This mother had been beaten by her son with an extension cord and now he was in the "psychiatric ward" at the hospital. My friend asked the woman if she could pray for her and the agonizing mother said, "I don’t believe in God." What you ought to hear is not necessarily that the woman didn’t "know" that there is a God, but rather that everything she has always held as dear and precious about God was being challenged by what was taking place in her life.