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After The Paris Attacks: What We Can Learn

The Paris attacks last week made my heart heavy. The Paris attacks are just a sample of the violence that rages all over the world, and it grieves my soul. When we experience horror like this, we need time to grieve and process what has happened. Since the Paris attacks, I have been doing that, but now that it has been a few days, I find comfort in trying to learn from it.

For many years, I refused to learn from tragedy—pain was mostly wasted on me, because I preferred to wallow in it. Now, I see pain can be a great teacher, if I am willing to learn.

These observations and thoughts stemming from the Paris attacks are things I am taking to heart. I don’t want to forget—I want to remember, pray and try to take away something useful:

Without God, the world is hopeless—and so are we. God is the sole origin of peace and love. Leaving Him out of our daily personal lives opens the door for all kinds of evil, from disorder to violence. When we leave God behind, we leave behind peace and love. But God is greater than our trouble; it makes sense for us to cling to our Creator in the midst of things like the Paris attacks.

None of us are innocent. Romans 3:23 says, “…all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” In other words, we are all guilty of sin, (from terrorists to Grandma), and the payment for sin is death. Death is what we deserve. Thankfully, God offers grace, forgiveness and life through Jesus. Christians are not innocent; we are just forgiven—what a gift. Since I have received grace, I want to be thankful for it, even while I mourn.

Death and suffering wake us to reality. We don’t live in Disneyland, (although I’d like to). Problems, wars and suffering exist in our world for now. Although they are painful, they are not eternal. But faith, hope and love will always remain. Thankfully, this world is not all there is. Eternity stretches far beyond it. If we believe that, we will live more courageously now. In Revelation, God promises the best is yet to come for Christians—I want to live like I believe Him. Someday, it won’t hurt as bad as it does today. But for now, God will stay with us, even though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death.

We are never safe. Safety is an illusion. The Paris attacks teach us we are all a breath away from dying from a bomb, cancer or an accident. What would it look like if we lived like we knew we could die at any moment? Because we could. We are fragile, yet we often think we are strong.  God doesn’t promise us safety here. He offers us a way out. There will always be enemies at the gate, disease in our midst, and natural disasters. Chasing after security isn’t productive, but serving God and each other is the most meaningful way we can spend what’s left of our lives.

We are never beyond repentance. God is more powerful than the evil behind the Paris attacks. Individuals repenting and drawing near to God, like never before, can only strengthen us as a people. Repentance is good for our soul. Maybe the greatest way we can help the world is to walk faithfully, repent often and share the love of Jesus with someone who doesn’t know it. Sharing our faith gives other people hope and a future.

The Paris attacks won’t be soon forgotten, and these observations are not pat answers or quick fixes. They won’t be the subject of bumper stickers or t-shirts. But they are universal truths I often forget and need to remember in times like these. This week, in the wake of the Paris attacks, I am praying my life will reflect these beliefs. I am asking God to help me see myself, other people and events through His eyes. Dieu règne, forever.

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