All day on Saturday my thoughts returned to France. I looked through my photo albums and skimmed through my old journal. My heart broke for the French nation after the vicious terrorist attacks that happened on Friday, and I couldn’t shake the sadness as I thought of the friends I had made during my time in France.
It was May 2002 when I boarded a plane for France. In my journal I made note of the increase in security at the airport due to the September 11th attack that happened less than a year prior. When I landed, I had prepared myself not to be well liked. My service training had explained all the ways that Americans and French were different, and it seemed that Americans represented a lot of things that French found annoying.
But the reality was completely different.
I was greeted with love, kindness, and grace for our cultural differences. My struggles with the language were quickly forgiven. And just as quickly I fell in love with France, the food, the culture, and most of all the people.
One thing I didn’t expect was the solemn respect for our sorrow over the World Trade Center attacks. I never imagined that 9/11 was something my new French friends would bring up, but they did again and again.
With sadness in their eyes they extended their condolences. It didn’t matter that I wasn’t from NYC or that I hadn’t lost any friends or family on that awful day. They didn’t even ask. Instead they were wise enough to know that when a tragedy of that magnitude happens, the sorrow ripples out well beyond those attacked. In fact, the sorrow had rippled across the ocean and into their own hearts as well.
This same generous display of compassion was shown to me in Guatemala less than a year later. After hearing that an American was in town, a local woman shared with me her picture of the World Trade Center. The language barrier didn’t matter. Her message was clear. This was her way of saying to me, “I see your hurt and I stand with you.”
And now here we are again, feeling the ripples of sorrow traveling across the land. We see the hurt happening in Paris and we stand with the French in their heartbreak.
How are we supposed to respond at a time like this? How can we facilitate healing? The French responded today by dropping bombs. Is that the answer? I don’t know, and I’m grateful I’m not the one to make those kinds of decisions. But I can choose how I will personally respond.
This weekend I chose to respond in worship. As a Christian, I believe that Jesus Christ died for my sins, your sins, and the sins of the entire world. He gave up his life in place of ours so that someday we can join the angels in heaven and together we can worship God.
So when I sang “You Hold Me Now” by Hillsong United this weekend, the words felt like a celebration.
In this life I would stand
through my joy and my pain
Knowing there’s a greater day
There’s a hope that never fades
Where Your name is lifted high
and forever praises rise
For the glory of Your name
I’m believing for the day
Where the wars and violence cease
All creation lives in peace
Let the songs of heaven rise to You alone
Someday the sorrow will be gone! Someday terrorist attacks will be a thing of the past. Someday bombs will cease to be dropped. There will be no more sickness, no more pain, and no more weeping.
I long for that day.
But until that day comes, I will fight against my Earthly desire to be angry at God that He could allow something like this to happen. Instead I will strive to lean into the fact that God is good all the time – even during our times of deepest sorrow.
When Kari Jobe’s song “Let The Heavens Open” played during our church service this morning, I heard it as a battle cry for christians .
Let the Heavens open
Let Your Kingdom move
All our faith and hope in
Our great God
While singing I pictured a bright foggy light covering the city of Paris. Streaming down from the light were God’s angels. They swept down to comfort the scared, heartbroken, and the lost.
Then I thought of the struggles happening in my own home. I saw the Heavens opening, and an angel coming down to meet my family.
And in that moment I decided that should be my prayer – that the Heavens would open and God’s miraculous army would sweep down to bring comfort to us all.
To those who lost loved ones in Paris.
To those who lost loved ones in Syria.
To the starving and the cold.
To the weak and the oppressed.
To the families battling cancer.
To the single parents who are barely holding on.
To the orphaned and the abused.
To us all…
Let the Heavens open. Come and have Your way, God. Meet us face to face.
There are no earthly answers for the sorrow in our world, but I will try my hardest to worship amongst the pain.
I pray that God will comfort you in your pain today.