After a pleasant, unsuspecting evening in Marietta, Georgia, I opened my phone to see countless headlines titled, "Paris Attacks Kill Dozens," and, "Paris Rocked by Explosions," and, "Scores killed in Paris terror attacks at six separate sites." So many thoughts raced through my mind simultaneously. How could this possibly happen? Who is responsible? How will the families of those lost react? Do the families even know yet? Is it over? Will this ever happen again? I was sad. I was angry. I was confused. I am confused.
Immediately, posts from every part of the world popped up on Facebook: "#PrayForParis", "Je T'aime Paris," "Heart broken . . ." and "I can't believe it."
Barack Obama addressed the nation saying, "This is a heartbreaking situation . . . this is an attack on humanity and on the universal values we share."
A Tweet from Hilary Clinton said, "The reports from Paris are harrowing. Praying for the city and families of the victims."
Justin Bieber, who apparently finished a show right during the breaking news Tweeted, " . . . just heard about what happened in Paris. Thoughts and prayers with everyone #PrayForParis."
Everyone in the world, celebrities, Republicans, Democrats, black or white, were immediately gripped with heartbreak for a hurting nation. Unfortunately, there is never a simple explanation for mass tragedies, and perhaps we'll never know what brings a human to end another's life. We all take this time to think and pray about the families of those lost so catastrophically and unexpectedly. The severe anguish and despair is felt by all nations today, but especially with the loved ones of those lost. The terror and agony that gripped their lives on November 13, 2015 will leave their lives altered and scarred forever. Those of us who have been priveleged enough to not lose loved ones in our lives, to an undefinable tragedy nonetheless, couldn't possibly understand the emotions these families are feeling, and it's for this reason we pray.
On 9/11, France stood with America and said, "Today we are all Americans." And today, America stands with France and says, "Today we are all French."
It's time's like this that I am reminded of the familar passage written to the church in Ephesus nearly 2,000 years ago. While it doesn't provide all the answers, it does help me to refocus, and encourages me to reorient my thoughts.
"Therefore I [Paul], the prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk worthy of the calling you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, accepting one another in love, diligently keeping the unity of the Spirit with the peace that binds us. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope at your calling— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all" (Ephesians 4:1-6 HCSB).
The NIV says in verse 4 to "make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace."
I'm also reminded of a passage that urges us to not only pray for those close to us, but for all people. "I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth" (1 Timothy 2:1-4 NIV).
We are all grieving, and we can all pray, and we all should pray, especially for Paris at this time, but also regularly for all nations and for those in authority. We should pray that the light shines brightest in the darkest places, that a world of suffering can be comforted by an Almighty God, that, even in the midst of hurt and confusion, God continues to move powerfully in ways we can never understand or explain. As we wrestle with why these things happen, and as we pray for God to be glorified, let's also make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace, to accept one another in love. Let's remember how big God is. Even in the very middle of an inexplicable tragedy, we can be unified locally, nationally, and worldwide. There is one body and one Spirit. One hope. One God.