There are times in life when words utterly fail, when language is simply inadequate to convey the felt depth of emotion. Some of these moments are happy times. No phrase is sufficient to express the look on a groom's face when he sees his bride walking down the aisle, nor can we put into words everything contained in holding a newborn child for the first time. The love and joy in our hearts is beyond language. As 1 Peter 1:8 says of our belief and love of Jesus Christ, we "are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy" -- "a joy unspeakable." And in those happiest of moments, to speak would surely be to shatter the feelings of our hearts, to cheapen and dull them by trying to define them.
Other times, words fail for different reasons. Just as we may have joy unspeakable, there are dark times of "groanings too deep for words," to borrow a phrase from Romans 8:26. Loss shocks us into silence. Tragedy enters our lives unannounced, and no words could ever be enough to express the pain and horror. All we can do is weep, or sit mute, or groan unintelligibly, knowing that our heart is still poured out through the wordless suffering.
Family, today is one of those latter times.
Over the last few days, our country has undergone intense violence, gratuitous bloodshed, and the temporary victory of evil over good. Senselessly, needlessly, five police officers were killed in Dallas during a protest against them. Several more lie wounded, some critically. Those bullets were fired in anger by individuals lamenting the deaths of two African-Americans at the hands of police, one in Baton Rouge and another in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, just outside of St. Paul, killings allegedly fueled by racism. Despite the videos of both shootings, no one has all the facts. It's possible the killings were at least partially racially-motivated, and it's possible they weren't. I don't know; we may never know beyond a shadow of a doubt. We do know one man involved in the Dallas shootings deliberately targeted white officers in retaliation. Regardless, seven people in three states are dead. Seven lives have been cut short. Seven souls left this world for the next because of other human beings.
Other human beings. Other people. Peers. Fellows. Living, thinking, feeling individuals made in the image of God. Beating hearts stopped others from ever beating again. Minds, God-given intellects, made the decision to pull a trigger and kill.
My heart breaks.
Some may argue this, but I have heard God verbally speak three times in my life. The third was during a chapel service in seminary. The speaker was leading us through a time of lament and asked us to voice our sorrow in prayer. For the first time in my life, my heart cried out directly to "Abba." Abba, I prayed as the tears began to wet my cheeks, why? Why do you allow war? Why is there death and destruction and fighting? Why do innocent people die in the crossfire? And for nothing! Senseless brutality because we simply can't get along and be good to people who are different than we are. When are you going to end it, disband our armies, stop war? My heart is breaking . . .
And out of the silence that followed, God spoke a single sentence: "Don't you think it breaks my heart, too?"
Brothers and sisters and friends, we are a troubled, heartbroken nation. Each day lives are lost, whether in hate or in self-preservation or in accidents. Violence swirls in a nation born in the crucible of armed rebellion. Evil triumphs. Criminals go unpunished. Leaders succumb to selfish greed and abandon their people. Hearts are filled to the brim with the malice of xenophobia, hating, fearing, and denigrating anything and anyone who is in anyway different. We are a country plunged into chaos wherein havoc and panic reign. Brother fights against brother, sister against mother, father against all. And so the death toll continues to climb and bodies continue to heap up, sacrifices to the spirit of the age.
It's evil. It's satanic -- for there can be no doubt about the origin of such atrocities.
But God is still on the throne.
The same God who hates evil has given us promises of good. One day, the violence will end: "He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they learn war anymore" (Isaiah 2:4; Micah 4:3). War will finally be over; we will kill no more. Death itself shall end: "The last enemy to be defeated is death"; "Then death and hell were thrown into the lake of fire" (1 Corinthians 15:26; Revelation 20:14). One day, in the fullness of time, it will all be over, and God will wipe the tears from our eyes.
Until that final, beautiful, holy day, we continue in a vale of tears. More lives will be taken by violent men. More hate and vitriol will be vomited by racist people of all ethnicities. This is our world, the world in which we must be peacemakers, sharing the truth and love of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We must stand in the gap, put ourselves in harm's way, work to protect all lives, point out injustices, and defend the Good wherever we find it. It will be difficult. It will be ugly. It will be costly and painful and deadly. But it is the only way. It is the only way to speak when words fail us. It is the way to serve God in a bruised and bloody land.
Remember the victims; remember their families. Remember their killers, and pray for healing and redemption. Pray that God may send us His peace and hasten the day all will be made well.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus, come.