Young girls run frantically from the sound of a bomb, screaming, crying, confused, and terribly afraid. An evening of sheer joy listening to the music of Ariana Grande had turned into an evening of terror.
In a British music venue, a suicide bomb killed 22 people, some of them children. Eight-year-old Saffie Rose Roussos lost her life, and 59 other people were wounded, some suffering life-threatening injuries. Many others are still missing.
The response? Muslim men pray for victims of the attack at a mosque in Manchester. Police officers look at flowers and messages left for the victims. A Union Jack flag is lowered at half-mast in honor of the victims. Religious leaders hold a prayer meeting in central Manchester. Ariana Grande spoke about the attack: “broken. from the bottom of my heart, I am so so sorry. I don’t have words.”
Is this a portrait of the world we live in? Must we fear for our children and lament the lives they must live? Do we place our faith in a God we sometimes question when tragedies happen?
One of my favorite Scripture passages is also one of the most poignant laments in the Bible. It is found in the fifth chapter of Lamentations. The words express deep mourning and profound loss, leaving the writer asking God, “Why do you always forget us? Why do you forsake us so long?” The hurting people who had lost everything they cherished cried out . . .
Joy is gone from our hearts;
our dancing has turned to mourning.
– Lamentations 5:15, NIV
Sometimes our dancing really does turn to mourning. All of us are acquainted with loss. Our world is a dangerous place, and tragedies like Manchester remind us of our vulnerability. So how do we live? How do we go on? How do people of God live this kind of dangerous life?
The musical group Hillsong sings “This Is How We Overcome.” The song, which is written by Reuben Morgan, echoes the celebration of the Psalmist in the fifth chapter of Psalms.
You have turned my mourning into dancing
You have turned my sorrow into joy.
The song continues with these words.
Your hand lifted me up. I stand on higher ground.
Your praise rose through my heart and made this valley sing.
They sing of the continual presence of God, even in times of deep mourning, profound loss, and grave danger. That kind of song speaks of our faith, a faith that still holds us and always picks us up when we have fallen. Our faith is our resilience.
We can overcome. Every time. Every time life circumstances assail us and steal our music, we persist. We sing. We dance. We praise a God who is eternally near. So let us persevere, always proclaiming the source of our strength.
The Rev. Michelle L. Torigian prays this prayer.
Let us resiliently resume our dancing.
Let us sing louder. Let us speak out voices with determination.
May it be so. Amen.
(Rev. Torigian’s prayer may be found at https://revgalblogpals.org/2017/05/23/tuesday-prayer-95/.)