Article Jan 11, 2017

Terror and trust: Responding to fear with faith

On January 6, travelers gathered around the baggage claim of the Fort Lauderdale airport awaiting their luggage and not knowing that their lives were to be taken or changed forever. Esteban Santiago had a sinister plan, one that callously ignored the value of the lives of those people. A security guard and Iraq veteran, he opened gunfire, killing five individuals and injuring many others.

It’s yet another event of unimaginable carnage at the hands of one of our own. Families have been destroyed, and the rest of us are left to pray and fight against fear. Flying leaves many in fear, but I imagine it never once crossed their minds that entering the baggage claim area might mean they would never exit.

I don’t know the type of terror they experienced. I’ve never experienced someone ambushing me or been in close proximity to the sudden loss of life by the hands of another. I imagine those who survived this tragedy must struggle with something like post traumatic shock. It would be difficult not to fear public places. They are also grieving the loss of loved ones, friends, and—in one case—grandparents. Many were affected by one man’s evil act. Tragic events like this one make us aware of our need for faith in these troubling days.

The Bible says there’s nothing new under the sun. Although this particular case has yet to be officially named “an act of terror,” I will use the term “terror,” not as a political or distinction of the law, but rather because Santiago’s actions indeed caused terror. Terror has been a part of our world since Genesis 3. But what’s new is our nearly instantaneous awareness of such events due to breaking news and information from the Internet.

Awareness can be a gift and a curse. If we dwell on the evil of this world, we run into the danger of mourning as a people without hope. But because we have the hope of the gospel and the hope of a new heaven and earth, we can instead learn about these hard stories in order to comfort the mourning or fearful around us, prepare our own hearts for the possibility of terror and also to pray. Each year brings with it stories of terror and destruction. There’s never been a year that has been perfect since that dreadful day sin came into the world. So, how are we to respond to these facts?

Know truth

When faced with the reality of the terror in this world, we need to remind ourselves of the hope revealed to us through God’s Word. We know that one day death will be swallowed up, and terror will no longer exist. There will be a new heaven and a new earth, and the old will pass away (Rev. 21:1). God is making all things new, in time. Even now, we have a living hope (1 Pet. 1:3). We don’t live in the reality of the resurrection just on Easter—Jesus has risen and lives now to intercede for his own. We should cling to this truth in our uncertain days and set our minds on the God who gives us perfect peace (Isa. 26:3). This is how we mourn as those with hope.

Lament

And what if we turned our fears and anxieties into prayer? What if we took our sorrow and sadness before the Lord, rather than keep it bottled up inside?

We can join the Psalmist and pray prayers of lament, grieving at the pain of this broken world. We can plead with the Lord for mercy and pray for our own hearts to trust and rest in the ever-present arms of Christ. We can ask for justice. And we can know that God wants us to ask these things in faith, knowing that he, and he alone, can do the impossible (Matt. 21:22).  

I long for the day when we no longer see terror and dreadful pain. But until that day, I’m going to cling to truth, lament before our Father and pray for his help. Let’s all run to him—our hope and our redeemer. This tragedy happened at the beginning of 2017, and more terrible things will happen this year. I don’t share that hopelessly—we want to be ready in our hearts for what’s to come, but we need not worry about tomorrow (Matt. 6:34). I want to set my heart and mind on God, who has promised: “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you” (Isa. 26:3).