Lord, Keep This Far From Us

Florida Shooting

The terrible news of a mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, on February 14 re-awakened all the emotions of outrage and pain that we felt after the crimes in Las Vegas, Orlando, San Bernardino, Charleston, Sandy Hook, the Washington Navy Yard, Fort Hood—and others sadly too numerous to comprehend.

Yet this latest episode of violence and death seems, in these early hours, to have triggered something else, as well: a sense of helplessness, a crisis of faith and conviction throughout our country. Our civic leaders, who usually make an effort to show confident resolve in such situations, could only face the public with downcast eyes. Our media commentators, rarely at a loss for words, could hardly stir themselves from dejected silence.

For the rest of us, this tragedy has struck very closely: made us feel vulnerable, and subject to forces beyond anyone’s control. Parents in particular cannot help but imagine themselves in the place of the afflicted families, facing their deepest nightmare of danger to, and loss of, their precious sons and daughters.

For Armenians—who lavish such love and attention on our children—we might respond with a quiet prayer: “Asdvadz herou baheh,” “God, keep such things far from us.” And surely people throughout our community held their children closer to their hearts after hearing the awful news.

At the center of this tragedy, of course, are the anguished people whose nightmares did come true this week: the loving mothers and fathers, the brothers and sisters, whose lives have been forever diminished by their loss. Their sense of grief is unimaginable.

Our hearts ache most of all for the fallen—most of them young souls, just starting on life’s journey. We are struck with regret over the potential that will never be realized, the promising futures that will never be fulfilled. The death of even one youth offends our sense of justice; but the violent murder of so many seems, in the deepest sense, against the order of nature. We can only pray for our Lord’s love and mercy upon them, and for his consolation upon their grieving families.

Equally unsettling, perhaps, is the dawning awareness that the killer himself represents the ruin of a young life: a terrifying picture of what can happen to a soul bereft of guidance and meaning. May God see that justice is done; but may He also have mercy on a human being who was spiritually lost, and abandoned to the darkest, most uncaring forces of the world. It is almost too frightening to ask the question: How many others like him are out there? We are used to saying that the young generation is our future. But is this the future that our increasingly careless, godless society has reaped?

To avert such a future, we must turn with humility to our Lord Jesus Christ. And we must turn, as well, to our own children. At a time like this, they need to know that there are people who need them, who care about them, and who want to share life’s burdens and joys with them. They need to hear this from our own lips: as parents, community, and church. Our children need to hear that they have given so much to us. And in this moment of crisis, it is our turn, as a church, to give them our comfort, our strength, and above all our love.

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