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Sorrows untold and hearts torn asunder

The fight of faith in this sad world

Children from The Covenant School in Nashville, Tenn., hold hands as they are taken to a reunification site at Woodmont Baptist Church after the shooting at their school on Monday. Associated Press/Photo by Jonathan Mattise

Sorrows untold and hearts torn asunder

Everyone suffers. We get that. Live long enough and you’ll say goodbye to a dream, you’ll lose a friendship, you’ll bury a loved one. Suffering hurts—a lot. That’s why it’s called suffering. We don’t like it. We often hate it. And yet, we can almost accept that pain is a part of the ordinary travails of life.

Until there seems nothing ordinary about it.

There’s suffering, and then there’s Job-like catastrophe and loss. That’s what our dear brothers and sisters—some of them, no doubt, personally known to those reading these words—are facing at Covenant Presbyterian Church and at The Covenant School in Nashville. I won’t retell the tragedy or recount the horror of this past Monday morning. You know what happened, and for everyone in that community, they will never forget.

What lies ahead for the church, the school, the kids, the parents, the grandparents, the siblings, the pastor, the staff, the family, the friends is a long road that no one—I mean no one—wants to travel. That road will mean grief, pain, anger, confusion, and sorrows untold. As Christians, we also dare to believe that there will be—in time, at times—unspeakable comfort, unexplained hope, and the blessing of the light of God’s countenance, a divine and supernatural light that can only be seen from the darkness of the deepest well.

The Christian life is a fight of faith, especially in the face of calamity and evil. It takes Spirit-given courage and fortitude to “take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses” (1 Timothy 6:12). We talk so much about faith that we can underestimate just how other-worldly it truly is to be a Christian. “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). That’s the closest thing to a definition of faith we get in the Bible, and it’s a definition we’d prefer not to rely on. I like to be assured of things I have, not things I hope for. I like to be convinced of things I see, not things I don’t see.

In times like this, we need the whole Bible with all the depth of Christ’s sympathy and all the height of God’s providential and loving care.

Every Christian has said this sentence before, and millions will say it again this Sunday: “I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.” If you’ve been in the church for years, the first sentence of the Apostles’ Creed just rolls off your tongue. We can literally recite it in our sleep, which is good, because lying awake in terror of the night is when we may need this truth most.

God is an almighty Father. That’s not just something, that’s everything. For tenderness of expression there is no explanation of the Creed’s first line as sweet and comforting as that which comes from the Heidelberg Catechism: “What do you believe when you say, I believe in God the Father almighty? All of this: I trust him so much that I do not doubt he will provide whatever I need for body and soul, and he will turn to my good whatever adversity he sends me in this sad world.”

Is that really true? Can we really count on such a promise? Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. “He is able to do this because he is almighty God; he desires to do this because he is a faithful Father.”

Hard to believe after six lives were shot down in an act of diabolical malevolence?

Also, yes. That’s why it’s called the fight of faith. In times like this, we need the whole Bible with all the depth of Christ’s sympathy and all the height of God’s providential and loving care. We need to know that God never leaves us nor forsakes us. We need to know that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. We need to know that the story doesn’t end with Joseph in prison or Jonah in the whale or Jesus in the tomb. We need to know after every cruciform Monday morning that Sunday’s coming.

I often think of the ending in Exodus 2. After God’s people cried out for deliverance, but years before the deliverance came, we are told four things: God heard their groaning, God remembered His covenant, God saw the people of Israel, and God knew (verse 24). Sometimes, with all that we’d like to know, all we know is that He knows.

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble (Psalm 46:10).

Lord, we believe, help our unbelief (Mark 9:24).

Kevin DeYoung

Kevin DeYoung is the senior pastor at Christ Covenant Church (PCA) in Matthews, N.C., and associate professor of systematic theology at Reformed Theological Seminary (Charlotte). Prior to the summer of 2017, he pastored at University Reformed Church in East Lansing, Mich. Kevin holds a Master of Divinity from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and received his Ph.D. in early modern history at the University of Leicester. He is the author of several books, including The Biggest Story, The Hole in Our Holiness, Crazy Busy, and Just Do Something. Kevin and his wife, Trisha, have nine children.

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