I and so many others are in shock as we all attempt to wrap our minds around the horrific killings in Charleston, SC last week. Words cannot describe the profound sense of grief, loss, frustration, vulnerability, and anger that grips our hearts at this moment.
What a tragedy. So many tears. So much anguish.
These evil acts of murder were senseless. They were selfish. They were sickening. Lord, help us! My thoughts and prayers are certainly with the victims’ families, with the members of Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church, and with all others around the country (and the world) affected by these disturbing murders.
A Word of Encouragement
I offer no clichés or platitudes in response to this headlining event. Sensitivity is required when there has been loss of human life. Evil is very real and it is cold, heartless, and unfair. My purpose for this post is not to answer the question—“Why did this happen?” Honestly, I do not know. I seek only to offer a few humble words of encouragement in the midst of a very difficult and traumatic situation.
First, I encourage you to turn to the Lord in prayer during difficult times. God is the ultimate source of hope, strength, peace, and comfort for the hurting. He is a very present help in time of trouble and nothing can separate us from His love (Psalm 46:1, Romans 8:35-39). We are not guaranteed that God will prevent tragedy, hardships, and suffering, but we do know from Scripture and experience that He will be with us in our trials. King David said: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me” (Psalm 23:4). Believers are assured not only of God’s presence, but also of His active involvement in bringing good out of awful situations (Romans 8:28).
Hope for the Future
Second, I encourage you to meditate on the future hope of believers. Believers look forward to a day when God Himself will “wipe away every tear from [our] eyes; [a day when] there shall be no more death, no sorrow, no crying and no more pain” (Revelation 21:4). With such a glorious future, we do not have to fear death or worry about the forces of evil because these are only temporary foes. Even though we now face evil, calamity, and death in the world, the reality is that Jesus Christ has stripped these things of their power and we shall live with Him throughout all eternity.
Third, I encourage you to extend forgiveness to the young man who committed these crimes. To forgive is not to excuse, but rather to release the bitterness associated with an offense. Dylann Roof needs the love and grace of God and the salvation which only comes through Jesus Christ, just as you and I need these things. Let us follow the powerful example of the victims’ families by extending forgiveness to Dylan. Healing can only take place through forgiveness.
Spreading the Love
Finally, I want to encourage you to spread the love of God to everyone that you can—to family, friends, coworkers, neighbors, strangers, and even your enemies. Love is transformative and infectious. A smile, a hug, an act of kindness can go a long way in helping someone to rise above negativity and hate. The time that you spend with a troubled person today may save his or her life tomorrow. God can use each and every seed of goodness that we plant into the lives of others to yield a rich harvest of blessing to humanity at large. Therefore, I encourage you to allow the Lord to make you an agent of salvation and healing by spreading His love in small ways to others.
God will get the glory in spite of this tragedy. Let us trust Him today like never before. Let us remain prayerful and hopeful while always actively spreading His love and forgiveness to others. Good will ultimately triumph over evil!
Elder Wilfred Graves Jr., Ph.D.
Dr. Wilfred Graves Jr. serves West Angeles Church as Special Assistant to the Senior Pastor and Chairman of the Board of Elders. He is the author of ‘In Pursuit of Wholeness: Experiencing God’s Salvation.’ The book is available at amazon.com or http://www.pursuitofwholeness.com.