When the wars of the world feel too close to home, when we’re reminded that our lives are perilous treasures, when cities are attacked and the answers are not immediate, fear threatens to win. Suddenly, my friends are turning on the news, downloading the BBC app, talking about the draft, and debating the difficult questions.
And still we go to Walmart to buy ice cream. We splurge, spend an extra dollar, and buy Breyers Chocolate Truffle instead of Great Value. We laugh at the images of tacky Christmas cat shirts.
This isn’t the first time we’ve experienced terrorism. Or natural disasters. Or anxiety. It will not be the last.
We visited the art museum this week. Friday was college night. In the middle of the American Art exhibit, my friend asked, “Did you hear about Paris?” My answer was a confused “no,” so she told me: “there were attacks. The city is under lock down. They don’t know what’s going on. France’s borders are shut down.” The wave of knowledge that I will always remember where I was because there I was, finding out about another tragedy, overwhelmed me.
On Saturday night, some friends and I drove out of our way after a beautiful concert to find a Krispy Kreme. We prayed that the hot light would shine. We rejoiced in its welcoming red glow and we devoured a dozen. Across the world, others fear the red glows because destruction follows.
Fear makes us do strange things. This world will fall. We will all die. Whether war or old age or a car wreck or cancer ends the chapter, life has an expiration date.
So what is our response to the terror? I don’t know. I know ignoring it isn’t the answer. I know being consumed with fear and not living is just as dangerous as escaping it all with ignorance. Maybe, the answer is found somewhere in thanksgiving. I can begin by thanking the Maker that he has given me life. I can rejoice in each breath, and I can strive to still notice the beauty, to see the life that swirls around us in a beautiful dance. I can take that beauty that overflows from a heart in love and pour it into the crevices of this broken and weary world. What is known is passing away; what is coming is a beautiful eternity.
And so we give everything away until eternity comes, because that forever is what we’re living for. To the refugees, we give a home. To the orphans, we give a family. To the heartbroken city of love, we give our prayers. To this world, we give Christ. But that’s too often easier said than done.
So tonight, we prayed. We covered cities of this hurting world in prayers. We cried together for the brokenness of this world. We hoped for a savior. I still scroll through Facebook, I still see the debates and I feel as if I could never read enough to understand, to find the answers. But then I remembered this summer. I was charged with writing a column about books. I pulled one off the shelf of my favorite library called The Silence of God. Written in the year of Stalingrad, during days of struggle and turmoil so similar and yet even more horrible than now, German theologian Helmut Thielicke wrote sermons that grappled with deep questions and subjects. Tonight, on the Monday after Friday’s fear, I’m reminded of his words.
“The surprising thing in the biblical message is that it finds in love the opposite of fear and anxiety. There is no terror — one might equally well say anxiety — in love, we are told in I John. The surprising thing is that anxiety is not opposed by fortitude, courage or heroism, as one might expect. These are simply anxiety suppressed, not conquered. The positive force which defeats anxiety is love. What this means can be understood when we have tackled anxiety in what we have tried to see as its final root. That is to say, anxiety is a broken bond and love is the bond restored. Once we know in Christ that the world has a fatherly basis and that we are loved, we lose our anxiety. . . . If I am anxious, and I know Christ, I may rest assured that I am not alone with my anxiety; He has suffered it for me. The believer can also know that Christ is the goal of history. The primitive community knows that this One has not gone forever, but will come again. It thus has a new relationship to the future. This is no longer a mist-covered landscape into which I peer anxiously because of the sinister events which will there befall me. Everything is now different. We do not know what will come. But we know who will come. And if that last hour belongs to us, we do not need to fear the next minute.” (8-9)
Let us fight with love, let us sing with grace, let us kneel in hope, and let us remember always that we know Who will come.