On Monday our hospital chaplain opened our prayer time asking us how we felt when we heard the news about Garissa the week before (if you somehow escaped the news of this tragedy, four terrorists from Al Shabbab walked into a Kenyan university in the pre-dawn hours of Maundy Thursday and systematically gunned down 142 students and 6 guards, purposefully selecting Christian kids, to protest Kenya's contribution to African Union peacekeeping in Somalia). I thought: stunned, vulnerable, responsible for concentrating over a hundred missionary souls in a potentially dangerous place, anxious, jumpy, surreal, and pretty quickly walling off my heart to panic and imagination as my mind probed the reality that MY kids are this age, one still in a Kenyan school that could be a target, the others University students just like the victims. The hospital staff were mostly silent in response to his question, but one voiced what many must think: I only wished I had a machine gun. He was angry, and he wanted justice.
Evil targeting youth and vulnerability is not new; diabolical plots to demoralize have plagued us for millennia. The chaplain proceeded to 1 Samuel 30, where David returns home and finds his town of Ziklag burned and plundered, all the women and children taken captive. They "wept until they had no more strength to weep" and then "the people spoke of stoning him (David), because all the people were bitter in soul, each for his sons and daughters." Grief and anger; the weary helplessness of loss lashing out to blame. I think we can all relate to that in Kenya right now.
The next phrase, though, is deeply beautiful. "But David strengthened himself in the LORD his God."
In a time of tragedy, let us start with our souls. Somehow we have a capacity for strengthening. Worship. Truth. Invitation to God’s presence. Raw clinging to faith. David must have wondered how God allowed his enemies to triumph. For all he knew, he and his followers had lost everything. But he moved towards his God. He needed that settled internal anchor to make wise decisions in his response, to keep himself from giving in to despair.
Let us strengthen ourselves in the LORD before we bomb villages and empty refugee camps, before we allow the evil of four to quash our love for a nation. Let us turn to our God with our sorrow, and our fear, and our questions for our children’s’ future. The rule of law must dispassionately ensure safety and justice in this land; the law of mercy must temper our hearts as we care for patients of the same ethnic background as the terrorists. Holding those two things together requires a serious inner strength, that only the LORD can provide.