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17 June 2016

Hoping when the night is dark and full of terrors

Hoping when the night is dark and full of terrors

Chine McDonald is director of communications and membership at the Evangelical Alliance.

"The night is dark and full of terrors." As a recent follower of Game of Thrones, I have become used to hearing that phrase on my small screen. But this week this fiction has felt painfully real.

In Afghanistan on Sunday, the Taliban is reported to have executed a young man by skinning him alive and gouging his eyes out before throwing him off a 10-storey cliff. That same day, Omar Mateen entered the gay nightclub Pulse in Orlando and massacred 50 people. On Monday, a 24-year-old French police officer was fatally stabbed outside his front door in a quiet residential area of Paris, before the killer entered his home and murdered his partner, too. On Tuesday, 52 fishermen were killed by militants at Lake Chad in Cameroon. On 9 June, in Pakistan, a woman was burnt alive for eloping. And yesterday, that terror reached the streets of Yorkshire to see Jo Cox MP shot and stabbed to death while doing what MPs do – being a presence, a listening ear and a voice to their community.

Every instance of violence, every act of terrorism, is an unspeakable attack on all of us. But there are weeks like this when the burden of pain and terror feels too much to bear. Verses like Romans 8:26 – "we do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans" – become a comfort to us. Because we have no words.

We cannot claim to be suffering to anywhere near the levels of the loved ones of those who died in Orlando or Paris or Afghanistan or Pakistan or Yorkshire. But this week as I've cried and heard of others' tears, it has felt like we are all united in our grief and in a sense that this just cannot be. Something within us screams: no, no, no.

There is something stunning in the universality of this sense of unease at these atrocities. I've seen it alluded to by many, from different political parties and worldviews and races and classes.

Peter Kyle MP – a friend of Jo Cox – wrote yesterday: "In general something just feels wrong in the world around us right now. There is so much hate and unfocused anger around us. Because of it people, families and communities are suffering."

Every one of us is a divine image-bearer. It's because we're made in God's image, with eternity set in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11), the kingdom of God within us (Luke 17:21), that we have this sense of dis-ease. Things are not as they should be.

As dark and full of terror as such weeks are, they serve as a reminder to me about why I'm a Christian; why I choose to believe in Jesus – God incarnate, who made his dwelling among us. God is not distant. He suffers with us. He alone is the one who takes the broken things of this world, sets eternity in our hearts and gives us a hope and a future. The Christian faith also serves to remind us that all of us have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. We may not have pulled any triggers, but every day we make wrong choices – a little bit of anger here and a small dose of judgment there. None of us is perfect; not one.

So as imperfect Christians, we choose daily to live in the forgiveness that comes only through Christ's death and resurrection – his victory over sin and death and hatred and evil.

I'll leave you with these uplifting, hope-filled words from 1 Corinthians 15, that were read at the funeral of an Evangelical Alliance colleague on Wednesday. May they serve as a reminder to you that it's Friday, but Sunday is coming…

"Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—  in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true:


'Death has been swallowed up in victory.'

'Where, O death, is your victory?
     Where, O death, is your sting?'

 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 

But thanks be to God! 

He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."


Please continue to pray for Jo Cox's family,friends and colleagues, as well as our political conversation in the coming weeks. Vigils for Jo Cox are being held across the country, including one in Parliament Square in London at 7:30pm, preceded by a prayer vigil hosted by Christians in Politics at 6:30pm.

Image: CC Joel Penner