Last November I was at home in France in the middle of an exciting week of mission and evangelism at my brother’s church. We were being blessed with God’s manifest presence and seeing many people commit their lives to Christ and be healed and set free. As we rejoiced in God’s goodness, the news hit our TV screens of the horrific terrorist attacks in Paris. We had been celebrating what God was doing through the mission, but now our hearts were broken for all the families who had lost a husband, a wife, a parent, a son, a daughter. Whole communities were left devastated, confused, numb and torn apart by grief.
The Sunday following the attacks, it was the last day of our mission, and my brother Daniel stood before his church, which was packed with people who were shocked and devastated at the events of the week. It is difficult to know what to say in the face of such a terrible situation, but my brother began to read from Psalm 37:
Do not fret because of those who are evil
or be envious of those who do wrong. (v 1 & 2)
Be still before the Lord
and wait patiently for him;
do not fret when people succeed in their ways,
when they carry out their wicked schemes. (v 7)
The salvation of the righteous comes from the Lord;
he is their stronghold in time of trouble.
The Lord helps them and delivers them;
he delivers them from the wicked and saves them,
because they take refuge in him. (v 39 & 40)
I have been thinking back to that moment this week, after seeing the news of the horrific attacks in Brussels (and the many acts of terror we see around the world). As believers, these cruel and violent acts can seem so overwhelming, and sometimes we can feel unsure of what to say or even how to pray. I believe that God’s Word shows us how to pray in these circumstances.
Firstly, let’s consider people. Let’s pray for those who are fighting for their lives. Let’s pray for the families and those who have lost someone they loved. Let’s also pray for those who witnessed the attack and for the local residents who have to come to terms with this enormous tragedy. Let’s pray also for the medical centres who are working with the injured.
Secondly, we need to pray for wisdom for Governments as they discuss and debate what happens next. Proverbs 14: 12 says: there is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death. We should pray for wisdom for world leaders – that they choose ways and responses which are inspired by God and not necessarily their own intuition.
Thirdly, what I am about to say may seem unthinkable, but we should also pray for those who plan and plot such evil acts. We can pray for God to change their hearts. Just as He did for Saul of Tarsus, God can change the hearts of these terrorist groups and their leaders.
Is it possible to have hope in the face of such unthinkable terror and hopelessness? It is easy to feel as though the world is an increasingly dangerous and unstable place, and if we look at the darkness around us, we can easily lose hope.
But we need to continue going to God’s Word for our answers. His Word (John 1:5) says that the darkness in the world will get darker, but that darkness will never extinguish light. In fact, that light (His light) will continue to shine brighter and the darkness CANNOT overcome it. That is where I get my hope.
Let’s pray with passion for our world and all those who are suffering and grieving today. And may God’s light, His in-extinguishable light, shine ever brighter in the middle of the darkness we see.