How Long, O Lord, How Long?

Here is a piece I wrote for our church “Advent” blog, NorthPark Presbyterian church Blog: Advent Devotionals

How long, O Lord, must we call for help, but you do not listen? How long must we cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not save? (Habakkuk 1:2)

We are weary with our crying out; our throats are parched. Our eyes grow dim with waiting for our God. (Psalm 69:3)

School children cut down in cold blood along with their hopes and dreams, their young lives extinguished in an instant of terror. In Pakistan, at Sandy Hook, at Christmastime: God, Why do we have to keep facing these horrors again and again?!? How long, O Lord, how long? Maybe this reality is why we need to keep celebrating Christmas again and again, too…inviting the Prince of Peace into our brokenness.

I protect my young children from the news, from the images, though we light a candle and say a prayer. They are beginning to understand that evil does exist in the world. How I wish we could hold on to their “age of innocence a little longer”, how I wish I could protect them from all fear and violence, demons and monsters, but they are growing up. Thank God for that. A parent asks me, “What do I say to my 9-year-old about this terrible news?” How can you talk honestly without scaring them too much? Their sense of security and the degree to which they are upset by such a tragedy has a lot to do with the way you react, the way you discuss it with them, and guide them in their response. While I may not know for sure what we should say to our kids, this is what I do know for sure: I believe what you tell the children in your life will help your own spirit, as well.

  1. First, you are safe. Speak the words of the Christmas angels together: “Do not be afraid! The Lord is with you.” Nothing like that will ever happen to you. Reassure them, even as you are reassuring yourself. Child psychiatrists explain that though you can never know for sure, children do not understand probability. It is not misleading to tell them that they will be okay, whereas trying to explain the uncertainty of reality would mislead them to worry more than is necessary
  1. Then acknowledge, Yes, There is evil in the world, but there is more good than bad. Some people do bad things, but most people are GOOD people who do good things, even very good things. YOU are good. I am good. God is good. Look for the good, look for the helpers, look for the light that will shine into this darkness, look for the LOVE. Love is always stronger than hate. It always overcomes the evil.
  2. Quote Mr. Rogers: “When I was a little boy and something bad happened in the news, my mother would tell me to look for the helpers. ‘You’ll always find people helping’, she’d say. And I’ve found that that’s true. In fact, it’s one of the best thing about our wonderful world.” Fred Rogers
  3. DO something. YOU can be a helper, too. How can you shine light in response to this situation? What prayer can we say for the people who are hurting? What prayer can we say for the people who do the bad things?
  4. Teach your children about the peace-makers and heroes like Malala Yousafzai, the teenage Pakistani girl who won the Nobel Peace Prize at age 17 for her efforts to encourage ALL children and girls to attend school, even after being shot by the Taliban for doing so. Malala says you must fight others through peace, dialogue, and education. She does not wish harm for her enemies, but an education for their children, too.

May we all pray for hope and peace, even while acting as hope-bringers and peace-makers for the world, especially for the children, especially at Christmas.

The wolf shall live with the lamb,

   the leopard shall lie down with the kid,

the calf and the lion and the fatling together,

   and a little child shall lead them.

The cow and the bear shall graze,

   their young shall lie down together;

   and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.

The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,

   and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.

They will not hurt or destroy

   on all my holy mountain;

for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord

   as the waters cover the sea. Amen.

(Isaiah 11:6-9)