A Santa Fe High School student commented, “It's been happening everywhere. I always felt eventually it would happen here, too.” The inevitability of hurt and destruction permeated this young person’s heart and soul. Tragically, her fears were realized. The words of the Apostle Paul echo in the background as headlines of violence cascade into our lives and as hearts are broken over and over again: “None is righteous, no, not one…Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known” (Romans 3:10, 15-17).
As the student sensed correctly, trouble looms in our broken lives and world. But even though we anticipate hurt, its arrival still wounds so deeply and shocks so powerfully. Having lost two loved ones in violent shootings, I have some understanding of the searing pain and loss experienced at times like these. I also know that, though we feel powerless when such fierce and forceful evil intrudes into our lives, there is a healing and helping message for such desperate times.
The poet said in Psalm 46, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (vs.1). Help in trouble. That’s what heartbroken people need to see and hear when they feel dashed to pieces. Help in trouble. The help won’t necessarily undo hurt and loss. It won’t make pain disappear. It won’t provide an immediate remedy for anger or for the heavy shroud of sadness, but, in a way that surpasses our human understanding, it will bring essential aid to the battered and wounded soul. Help in trouble. Help for the helpless. Help when you feel like you have nothing left and even God is against you.
When I lived in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, two men killed seven people in a restaurant around the corner from our church. In that restaurant, parents, grandparents and high school students had their lives stolen away. The community was devastated. The mayor, the police, community leaders and residents needed something in the emptiness and grief that followed. They needed help in the midst of grave and horrible trouble. They asked us, the church, if we had anything to offer. Yes, we did. We had a refuge and strength to offer. In deed and in Word, that’s what we did. We were listening ears, we gave hugs, we offered a safe place for mourning, and we freely provided Words that work deeply into the heart, a Savior who understands and responds to groans of the soul, and a message of hope that does not return empty. We gave what we’ve been given: help in trouble.
There is no other source of help and hope but in God who is our refuge and strength. People need this help. People need to know that death does not have the last word. Broken people need people of faith to lean on. Hopeless people need lives of hope to look to. Speechless mourners need Words of grace for healing. People of Jesus’ resurrection, the Church, have something to give and show and say when violence and heartbreak strike: Help in trouble. The world needs it. Church, arise!