I was elated when my dad gave me his old Boston shirt a few years back. It's a faded long-sleeve blue shirt that fits a little big but is absolutely perfect in every way. I myself now wear the Boston shirt before many of my own races, and I love it when an older runner or coach gestures at the shirt and smiling, says: "Why I bet you weren't around back then." To that, I proudly answer, "No, it was my daddy's."
In this small-- and seemingly insignificant way-- I feel a connection to the Boston marathon. For that reason, I was utterly shocked and sorrowful upon hearing about the tragedy that occurred today. You don't have to even be a runner to understand the great pain and confused fear that many are dealing with at this very moment. Not only is the Boston Marathon a longstanding symbol of marathon running, but it is also an event of great pride for the state of Massachusetts and the United States as a whole.
So how is a Christian supposed to view this? What are we to say to the mourning and angry people around us who say that a good God couldn't let something like this happen, who are scared for their future?
There are many people who say they are praying, and I do not want to diminish that. Prayer is absolutely a powerful communication with God when used according to Biblical principles. My point is: we can do much more than quietly pray. Maybe we cannot fly to Boston and help pick up the wreckage from the streets. Perhaps we can't go and offer encouragement to each and every one of those involved, but we can offer hope.
"But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and be ready always to give an answer to every man who asketh you a reason for the hope that is in you..."
~1 Peter 3:15~
That is what the world wants to see at a time when accusations are flying and anger is adamantly pointing the finger toward God. Many people say that a "good God" wouldn't let things like this happen. Terrible things in life happen and they will continue to happen. As Christians, there are two crucial moves that we must make in instances like this:
1. Offer hope and love
In order to explain what is good, we would have to have an infinite understanding of all things past, present, and future. We would have to be God, or else "good" is merely relative to each individual's definition. It is extremely hard to grasp, but although this bombing was meant for evil, God can and will turn it around for good in a way that we can't understand right now. The hope in this message is that we don't have to go searching for the answers and fear for our lives. God is in control and he knows exactly what is going on. He knows exactly how hurt many families and individuals are right now, and without delving deep into theology: I believe that God did not cause this event to happen, but will take authority to bring good out of it. We can offer the hope to others that they aren't caught up in some random sequence of events. There is a God who desperately loves all of us, who is working things together for good. There is a power that Satan has over this world as a result of the fall of man, but God has not simply stepped aside. He is here. He is actively loving every person involved in the Boston tragedy, and he is actively loving each and every one of you. God's love is powerful, and a prayer, a hug, or a note/scripture of encouragement, go a long way when they are given with the love of Christ.
2. "Always be ready"
This part of 1 Peter 3:15 implies preparation, training. As Christians-- and really, anyone on earth-- we are in a daily Spiritual battle. We must be prepared. Just like the tragedy that occurred today at Boston, great sorrows are often sudden and unforeseen. There is hope that we can offer though, and must offer. What happened today is an opportunity to nail that down in your head. You can ask yourself questions like:
~What is the hope Christ gives me personally?
~How can I prepare for future events and be ready to give an answer to the questioning world?
~In what ways can I practically share this hope with different people in my life?
~ What characteristics (ex. patience, compassion, non-judgmental love, ect.) can I grow in through showing hope to others after this tragedy?
~ What is God speaking to me about specific ways I can help?
I hope that you will join me in praying for healing and salvation during the aftermath of today's tragedy in Boston. Furthermore, I pray that you will step out of your comfort zone-- I'm doing it too-- tomorrow, and offer them the plain old love and hope of Christ. You don't need to tell them the Gospel (but if God leads: do it!!!). Maybe they are just very confused and scared for the future, and you have the opportunity to help calm that storm in their soul. Louie Giglio once said that during hardships in life, we are given a megaphone. It is during these times when the heart is exposed, that people listen. We can offer a megaphone of fear or the latest news updates, or we can have a megaphone of hope that will exemplify the love of Christ.
Are you ready to give an answer for the hope that lies within?