There has been a lot of sadness, evil, grief and confusion in our country and in my community in particular recently. A few days ago, a fellow University of Arkansas student and a very close friend to several of my sorority sisters committed suicide. Before that, an explosion in Texas affected a lot of families and people in Texas and, as a result, in the U of A community. Before that, several people were killed and many injured in a senseless bombing at the Boston marathon, of all places. We see so many acts of violence toward innocent people and hear of so many lives taken far too early every day. Our world is filled with darkness and sadness, and we are reminded of this every time we turn on the TV or read the news of another tragedy on Facebook.
I have always found confusion in events like these, no matter how strong my faith in God and His plan and His eternal strength and comfort in our lives. I can know that those people are in a better place and I can know that those things happen for a reason – I can know these things deep in my heart, but I cannot escape a feeling of shock, sadness and, ultimately, confusion.
At times like these, I turn to God. I pray for those affected, that they may find strength in these trying times and, eventually, peace and happiness once again. I am confident that God will provide these things to those in need. But I also look to His word for wisdom on how to deal with such horrible, confusing, awful events. Tonight, I found a story that spoke to me emotionally.
Matthew 14:1-12 describes the death of John the Baptist. However, John the Baptist did not die peacefully or naturally – he was beheaded by Herod. The disciples take his body and bury it and then go to tell Jesus. What caught my eye was what happened next.
Matthew 14:13-14 “When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.”
Jesus had just learned that his friend, his kinsman and the one who had proclaimed him as the Messiah had not just died but had been gruesomely murdered. He withdraws from the crowds temporarily, as most of us would if we learned of something like that. But then, the crowds followed him. Instead of further isolating himself, leaving the crowds again who had desperately sought him, or being frustrated or angry because he had been followed when trying to withdraw/grieve…Jesus has compassion for them. He feels for them. He heals those in need. He shows them love. Shows them love in a time that is dark and full of sorrow in his own life. In Mark 6:34, it is added that “he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd.”
These people hadn’t just lost a friend like Jesus had, at least not as far as we are told. These people were struggling with different things, however. And Jesus knew that. He knew they were lost and he put aside his own problems and put this entire, huge group of people above himself. The story goes on that he gave them each enough to eat, although they began with just 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish. He feeds all 5,000 people.
In times like these, I now have a goal to strive to not focus on myself and my confusion but to focus on all those around me. I strive to show love and compassion to those lost without a shepherd, those grieving, to everyone I encounter – in the hopes that I can, through God’s glory, instill in others the strength, hope and love to keep going, to not give up, to love life, and to, most importantly, see God’s love and plan in everything. Perhaps we can save a life. Perhaps we cannot. But this is what Jesus did. He was full of sorrow, I am sure, but he did not get angry at the world and the injustice and pain and horrible things that had happened – he tried to further the love and goodness in the world. Instead of becoming pessimistic or angered at the world and the evil and sadness that surrounds us, we need to, more than ever, stick together and try to increase the good in the world. Life is clearly short and precious. If we all said a kind or encouraging word to someone today, it could make more of a positive difference than we know. I know that darkness and sadness exist prominently in our world but I believe with all of my heart that there is more goodness in the hearts of people and more goodness to be shown to one another than there is evil.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” — Martin Luther King, Jr.