After the rampage
A psalm offers insight and comfort after the tragedy at Virginia Tech.
It is not too late. It is never too late to reach out for solace and for comfort. The source of comfort is real and is at hand. But even more than that, it is not too late to reach out to the Almighty for healing.
It is a time for healing, a time for appealing to the Creator for some glimpse of His power, His care, His love. And even for some glimpse of His safety. Yes, it is not too late to seek such a glimpse in prayer and to expect to find a meaningful answer.
As the first reports of the rampage at Virginia Tech spread across the Internet, I turned to the Bible for comfort.
But I also wanted more than comfort.
I hungered for an answer to the violence itself, an answer that would transform the aftermath of a horrible tragedy into a time of first steps toward safety and security for every student at every university – a time of seeing that the ultimate source of safety is real and meaningful and present.
The Bible, yet again, spoke as if holding a message meant just for this moment. It fell open to the Psalms. "There be many that say, Who will shew us any good?" It was easy to imagine grieving friends plaintively asking just that, "Who will show me any good at all?" as if, in the face of tragedy, it was impossible to imagine goodness of any kind.
But the Psalm does not end there. It goes on a verse or two later and affirms, "Thou, Lord, only makest me dwell in safety" (4:6, 8). Here, I thought, was a powerful fact, a spiritual truth.
The one God, who is inextinguishable Life, changeless Truth, unstoppable Love, is at hand. And this God does make each one of us dwell in safety. God has the power, is the power, which makes safety possible. The Psalmist could assert this. How? By being naive? Hardly. By somehow being blind to harsh scenes of tragedy in daily life? Not possible.
Maybe even in the face of terrible news stories, the Psalmist somehow grasped that the Almighty's presence and power were more real, more transforming, more determinative than any of the horrors to the contrary. And that by sticking to the spiritual fact that "Thou, Lord, only makest me dwell in safety" one could make a positive difference. One could bring that message of God-based safety within reach of every student. One could bring nearer the day when such tragedies become less frequent. When safety becomes more the norm, more the divinely assured fact, more the unchallengeable reality.
In the Psalmist's day, and ever since, proofs of this safety have piled up. I think of Daniel's long night in the den of lions. Then I suspect that the presence of God, of divine Life, Truth, and Love, must have been more vivid to Daniel than even hungry lions.
It's hard to imagine oneself in that circumstance and attaining that state of spiritual conviction. But I am inspired by the fact that it has been done and by the possibility of following that example. If the Psalmist could see this, if Daniel could prove it, what about you and me? Couldn't our prayers, our affirmations of God causing us only to dwell in safety, make a difference?
Monitor founder Mary Baker Eddy wrote in the primary work on Christian Science, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures": "Understanding the control which Love held over all, Daniel felt safe in the lions' den, and Paul proved the viper to be harmless. All of God's creatures, moving in the harmony of Science, are harmless, useful, indestructible. A realization of this grand verity was a source of strength to the ancient worthies" (p. 514).
Yes, that is comforting. I find it even more, though. I find it so compelling a promise that it makes me want to commit myself to prayer. Moment by moment I want to see that God is the ultimate source of safety, and that by understanding Him, I can help, even if only in a tiny degree, to make the world a safer place.