Making Sense of the Nonsense

birdGrief and anxiety can be so powerful that you can melt in the heat of their presence like a dip of ice cream on a 110-degree day.   When the trials and tragedies of life assault you, God can seem so distant that his voice is inaudible and His care and compassion inconspicuous.

When you feel like you’ve been bullied by misfortune and beaten down by fickle friends, you can be blinded by a pervasive sense of loneliness and a warped perspective on life.  This was the case with Asaph when he wrote Psalm 73:

My feet almost slipped; my feet almost slid out from under me. For I envied those who are proud, as I observed the prosperity of the wicked. For they suffer no pain. . . They mock and say evil things; they proudly threaten violence. They speak as if they rule in heaven, and lay claim to the earth.

Whenever you find that you are walking with Asaph down the path of misery, you need to recalibrate your compass.  Instead of focusing primarily on your internals, you need to take an eternal perspective on life.  This is what Asaph did to reorient his direction in life:

When I tried to make sense of all this nonsense, it was troubling to me. When I finally looked beyond myself and quite beating myself down. I looked up to God and I entered His temple, and then I understood the destiny of the wicked (my paraphrase of Psalm 73:16-17).

In times like these, God may seem to hide, but He is still present to present you with what you need.  “Sometimes God gives us a gentle push of courage; sometimes He mercifully numbs us so we don’t experience the full intensity of our pain; at other times He carries us when we cannot take another step on own (Bruce Carroll, Sometimes Miracles Hide).”

One of the more comforting sections of Scripture that may help when you are feeling the pain of lingering bruises is Psalm 121:

I look up at the vast size of the mountains—from where will my help come in times of trouble? The Eternal Creator of heaven and earth and these mountains will send the help I need. He holds you firmly in place; He will not let you fall. He who keeps you will never take His eyes off you and never drift off to sleep. What a relief! The One who watches over Israel never leaves for rest or sleep. The Eternal keeps you safe, so close to Him that His shadow is a cooling shade to you. Neither bright light of sun nor dim light of moon will harm you. The Eternal will keep you safe from all of life’s evils, from your first breath to the last breath you breathe, from this day and forever. ~The Voice

Stop, Look, and Listen

On Monday of this week, there was another incident in which a teenage boy opened fire on his fellow classmates.  This time it was in Ohio.

When I was in high school, many of us drove our cars and trucks to school with shotguns in the back window.  Even though we did plenty of stupid things, I don’t remember a single time any of us thought about shooting-up the school.

The days of my childhood have vanished and proof of this is the steady diet of violence on TV.  The Saturday morning cartoons are no longer of the Mighty Mouse variety.  Video games have gone from Pac Man to realistic and graphic simulations of warfare, murder and violence.

By the time the  average child is 12, he has witnessed thousands of violent acts through the media.  Watching it on TV is not quite as bad as role playing it with video games.  The problem with the video games is that they captivate and engage the psyche of our children in acts of violence.

The Zur Institue reports that, Violence in the media, whether it is reflected in music, games, cartoons, T.V. shows or movies, desensitizes children to the effects of violence, legitimizes and glorifies violence and can increase aggressive behavior or, at the least, increases tolerance and acceptance of violent and abusive behavior. After seeing violence on T.V., cartoons, and playing violent games, violence offline seems “normal.

I have read different reports that address this issue.  I find the work of retired Lt. Col. David Grossman to be very interesting.  An insightful interview that focuses on this issue can be read by clicking here.

Let me share a few statistics about school shootings:

  • In about 75% of the cases, the shooter had told several people about his plans.
  • In half of these incidents, the shooter was encouraged by friends to carry out the attack.
  • A large per centage of the shooters had experienced bullying and harrassment.

Grossman, in another article, suggests that one of the best deterrents to this type of senseless violence, it to have a police presence in the schools.  This sounds like an endorsement of the School Resource Officers  we see  in schools today.

After reviewing the research, I believe the message at railroad crossings is one we need to take to heart:  Stop, Look, Listen.  Since most of these shooters speak about their planned assault for weeks and months ahead of the attack, parents and teachers need to take the time to stop what they are doing; look for the message below the surface; and, listen to the emotion.

The simple truth is, hurting people hurt people.  Our task, Jesus said,  is to love others the way that He has loved us (John 13:34-35).  Instad of giving a struggling teenager a piece of your mind, try something different–give him a piece of your heart.