On Sunday, Nov. 5, 2017, another mass shooting occurred. This time, the target was a church located in Southerland Springs, Texas. The gunman, now deceased, took the lives of 25 people including eight children, plus an unborn child. The killer, who had a record of violence and mental health issues, had no problem purchasing firearms. This tragedy comes just one month after the Las Vegas massacre. Does the epidemic fall under the mental illness, loose gun laws or a combination of both?
On the evening of Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017, as Jason Aldean was performing in front of a capacity crowd of 22,000 fans, a man clearly disturbed and tormented opened fire from the 32nd floor of a neighboring hotel. One eyewitness stated the ordeal lasted just over 12 minutes; however, it rendered 59 dead and over 527 injured. What remains to be quantified are the countless “unnamed” victims who have suffered a horrific trauma as a result of tragedies such as this. For many, it has become increasingly more difficult to find hope in a world plagued with gun violence.
The “Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association” previously reported an estimated 24 million Americans suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), many of which go undiagnosed. This bears in mind the desperate need for answers. Medication will not do it. Therapy cannot cure it. More than ever, our world is hungry for hope. Not just any hope, but the kind of hope that only comes from a relationship with our creator.
We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain. Hebrews 6:19 (ESV)
One of the grandest promises in the Bible paints the picture of hope as an anchor of our soul. The winds and waves of life, which are designed to mature us, will knock us off course if we are not held steady. The anchor called hope grasps us firmly and securely when the winds are blowing hard and waves are crashing all around.
The metaphor compares the Christian to a boat on the sea; the Christian is in the sea of life. There are storms that threaten to drive his ship from its port – the storms of persecution, adversity, doubt, and even death. However, just as the boat’s anchor reaches down to the bottom of the ocean and out of sight, the Christian’s anchor ascends out of sight into heaven where it is there fixed. This sure and steadfast hope enables us to persevere in the midst of adversity. Paul explains the process by which we gain unreserved optimism as follows:
And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation works patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope. (Romans 5:3-4)
Although the world is plagued with gun violence, we all know people who seem immovable in the face of overwhelming tragedy. They have suffered much, usually with a quiet dignity that belies the tumultuous storms of emotion, disappointment, fear, and grief that may rage beneath the surface. They are amazing. They have been through this spiritual learning cycle repeatedly. These people have forged anchors of hope from the materials of experience, testimony, covenants, and service.
The first thing we notice is that this is just a normal learning cycle. Paul assures that steadfast hope is only to attained when it stems from faith in Christ. The apostle also assures us of something many would rather avoid: Storms in this life are required for the journey. The mystery of faith is that even while grappling with the idea that God allows rain and sun is the understanding that he is the source of refuge within every circumstance.
How can people find hope in a world plagued with gun violence and other tragedy? When overwhelmed with trials and tribulations, we rely on our faith to keep us on the path facing the right direction. We then call upon God for help in times of storm and wait patiently for his hand to be revealed. Eventually, we recognize the Lord’s promises have been kept and that we have been sustained, even when that sustenance comes in a form or at a time that is remarkably different from that which we have envisioned, requested, or expected. With each experience, we fashion new anchors of hope.
Moments after the shots concluded, thousands of concert attendees uttered the words, “We made it,” “We made it!” This sound of this chant paints a vision of the transformational power of hope. To hope to survive – against all odds – then witness survival. It is comforting to know that where there is hope, there is God, knowing he not only loves us but is for us!
With our anchors duly deployed, we are available to listen to the promptings of the Spirit. We are prepared through our humble understanding of God’s love and atonement to offer a reflection of that love to all around us. This is charity—that through our words, actions, and service, the love of God is shed abroad as we proclaim our unashamed testament to the reality of his being, our Father’s love for each of his children, and to his promise of redemption and eternal life. We are called to spread hope!
The Christian’s hope will anchor the soul, bringing him safely through every trial and temptation of life. Storms come and go, but God’s presence remains constant. His love guides us to a landing place of peace when the winds finally pull back. When your soul is held steady in the hope of Jesus Christ you have an anchor that can hold you fast despite any storm!
Opinion by Cherese Jackson (Virginia)
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