I’ve never stared down the barrel of a gun. I’ve been scared and I’ve been panicked, but I’ve never felt my life on the fringe of leaving this realm. I’ve had moments where I’ve thought, “That could have ended fatally,” but didn’t think that it would. As I read and watch another tragedy that has hit “my backyard,” most recently this mass shooting in Las Vegas, my heart breaks once again, and I wonder how I would handle being directly involved in such a situation. As our illusions of security and safety are stripped away, revealing the ugliness and sin that has always been present in this world, I question my strength, my ability to cope. It’s as if we clench our muscles during the in between, just waiting to hear of the next catastrophe. We dare not think, “It could never happen here,” because it can and it has. The world is falling apart under our feet—how do we not crumble with it?
I remember the words of Jesus, even the lessons and coloring sheets on this passage from Sunday School as a child:
“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” Matthew 7:24-27
When tragedy hits, we want to find someone to blame. Some blame the president, others the last president—congress, pollution, global warming, Muslims, Christians, religion, lack of religion, conservatives, liberals, the other race, the other sex, God, philosophies, the generation before, the current generation, the generation that will be. We blame to take the responsibility off of ourselves. We blame to make it easier. If we can just pinpoint the problem, we can eradicate the problem. It’s what much of our current violence is doing, seeking to eradicate the perceived problem. History should have taught us by now that it’s not that simple. Blame takes us further away from the only solution.
So we think about the houses. Both houses faced the harsh elements. Both houses were beaten and battered. One stood while the other fell. You already know where this is going. You might have even done the coloring sheet. The foundation matters. What we believe matters. Where we put our trust matters. It’s tempting to wrap ourselves in fear and lash out in anger, but instead wrap yourself in the eternal promises of Jesus. We don’t have to understand it all, but we do have to trust. He can be trusted because He lived among us. He can be trusted because He suffered more. He can be trusted because He overcame death.
When my Papa was 28-years-old, he was drafted into the army to fight in World War II. He was placed on burial duty, thus surrounded by death. One day, he felt something tap his hand. When he looked down to see what it was, he saw a bullet on the ground, still hot to the touch. He had been “hit” by a bullet that had reached the end of its journey. He kept that bullet until he died at the age of 91 to remind him of God’s protection. Through the horrors that he experienced, he often spoke of his favorite passage of Scripture, Psalm 91.
5You will not fear the terror of the night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
6 nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.
7 A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.
8 You will only look with your eyes
and see the recompense of the wicked.
9 Because you have made the Lord your dwelling place—
the Most High, who is my refuge—
10 no evil shall be allowed to befall you,
no plague come near your tent.
14 “Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him;
I will protect him, because he knows my name.
15 When he calls to me, I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble;
I will rescue him and honor him.
16 With long life I will satisfy him
and show him my salvation.”
On several occasions during this Psalm, the Lord as a dwelling place is mentioned. What safer, more comforting place to be than in the Lord? Yet much of the world rejects this peace and protection because dwelling under one’s roof means submitting to one’s authority. Just as parents tell their children and teens, “While you’re under my roof, you live under my rules,” the same goes for our Heavenly Father. The rules are set out of love though. If we believe that God is perfect, then the best place to be is willingly under His perfect authority.
The chorus of Shadowfeet by Brooke Fraser sings, “When the world has fallen out from under me, I’ll be found in You, still standing. When the sky rolls up and mountains fall on their knees, when time and space are through, I’ll be found in You.”
The song is based on a line from The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis, a question that meets our questioning.
“Will you come with me to the mountains? It will hurt at first, until your feet are hardened. Reality is harsh to the feet of shadows. But will you come?”
When circumstances surpass our understanding, trust Him. When the path is unclear, follow Him. When the pain is unbearable, seek refuge and comfort in Him. We were never promised happiness. We were never promised freedom from pain. But we were promised Him.
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
Build your life on the foundation of Christ and you’ll withstand whatever calamity falls, not by your own strength, but His.