Clergy Corner: Violent tragedies rekindle our sense of heroism and resilience

File Photo
Pastor Brian Foxworth.

■ By Brian Foxworth / Contributed

On Oct. 2 many of us awoke to the headline news story, “Worst mass shooting in U.S. history.” Later the details of the tragedy in Las Vegas brought emotions of fear, anger and despair, just to name a few. As our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims of this tragedy, their families and the Las Vegas community, we are left to wrestle with such questions as “What kind of world are we living in?” or “Where is God in all this?”
There are many theological opinions concerning why suffering occurs in the world and what role God plays in those moments. This column is no place to even begin to explore such questions. That said, moments of tragedy involving violence are perhaps the greatest threat to the hope we have for this world and God’s work in it.
I believe tragedies are very much part of the story that defines our lives. That story can, however, be written from two different points of view. The death, despair and trauma are very real in the Las Vegas story. The act of one shooter destroyed countless lives and put a good-sized dent in our sense of safety and goodness in the world.
However, from the crowd comes countless stories of heroism, kindness, resilience, courage and pure love for one’s fellow human being, thereby restoring one’s faith in the goodness of which human beings are capable.
If you were to ask me where God is in all this, I would dare say God was there on the ground when the bullets began to fly and perfect strangers bonded together to preserve life. God was also there when the last blast rang out and in that stillness came the outpouring of compassion for those wounded physically, and those with hidden wounds.
God will still be there when the community of Las Vegas and all those affected rebuild their lives the best they can; one step at a time and moment by moment. Those who perpetuate violence want our story to be defined by the fear and loss they have created. But God’s children are people of resurrection and therefore no act in this world truly defines the story of life that has been written for us.
One thing we can truly do to honor those who lost their lives is to refuse – with all our strength – to go back to our tendencies to be judgmental, selfish and greedy, and any number of the other vices which can easily define the human condition.
We can strive to embody the compassion, care, courage, unity and so many other God-given traits that rise to the surface in the face of adversity. If we do that the shooters can never win because love and tender mercy will replace hate and that which seeks to divide us as human beings. May God comfort us all as we remember those lost in Las Vegas and all those victimized by that act of hate. May we also remember that in the end Love Wins!

Brian Foxworth is pastor of Spirit of Joy Community Church, 3126 W. Johnston Ave. in Hemet and has been a hospice chaplain in the Valley for nearly 10 years. Before taking on those roles he studied at California Lutheran University, receiving a bachelor’s in biology and philosophy. He earned master’s degrees in bioethics and clinical ministry at Loma Linda University and holds a Master of Divinity degree from Pacifica Lutheran Theological Seminary in Berkeley. When not running after his two little ones, he enjoys riding his motorcycle, tinkering with RC cars, reading, music and spending time with his family and friends.

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