This is the testimony given at the 9th Annual Youth Revival May 5 at the Bloomfield Congregational Church
A little over a year ago, I was sitting by my locker with all the amazing friends I’ve come to know over the past few years and it was Valentines Day. We were handing out cards, laughing, and realizing how blessed we were to have each other. It was - a day of love.
But then not soon after, we were handing around our phone news alerts, crying, and realizing that it could happen to us - a day of fear.
You see, 17 people had died in a school and community, not unlike many of ours, in Parkland, Florida as a sequence of school shootings, spilled blood, and constant violence continued on. It seemed, at that moment, that God was nowhere to be found. That prayers could do nothing to change a culture where we are isolated and people hurt unnoticed until they reach an extreme. A country where 100 men, women and children are dying from gun violence every day was something we came to expect.
Since our births, there has never been a time that we have not been at war and our generation has witnessed tragedies like these day in and day out.
Now, I can see how it might seem strange to be admitting that I failed to see God that day standing here in this church and at this altar, but I think it’s time we be honest about the times we fail to see God or we question God’s ways.
And if I’m being completely honest, something I wrestle with is how God can let bad things happen. I mean, I don’t know about you, but sometimes I think of God as an Avengers superhero, evil is endgame and God’s there to beat every villain in our universe.
But then – I have to ask myself – what about faith? What does our faith have to say about all of this pain and heartache in our world?
Faith is belief and trust in something. It’s knowing that something is there without seeing it, and believing even if we would like the “proof”. Even if it doesn’t seem to come when we think it should. Even if it doesn’t have all the powers we imagined it did.
Well I can tell you that as someone who doesn’t have all of faith figured out, I know, without a doubt, I felt God’s presence on the day that a group of students and I held a listening forum to speak our minds about the cycles of violence and the fear we felt each day.
There were over 30 students present at my high school talking about their pain, frustration, hope, and desire for change but I didn’t hear them. No, I didn’t hear them – I heard God.
You see, I heard God when the day before I had four fellow students email me saying that they were terrified to speak, but knew it was so important that they could – and they did. I heard God in the clamping of our hands to that podium, hands ready to be put to work on the issue of gun violence, hands ready to speak the love and peace we shouted and longed for. I heard God in the way that they promised they would never stop standing up. It was as I stood there in that auditorium, that I finally realized what faith was all about.
Friends, God was speaking then, and God is speaking now. God says stand up! God says speak up! Because God isn’t in the shootings, and the hunger, and the insecurity, and the hurt so many feel and that our world has grown accustomed to. In fact, I believe God is crying with us. And God is in the moments after, whispering to us "Stand up."
In the words of the song by Matthew West:
I woke up this morning
Saw a world full of trouble now
I thought, "How'd we ever get so far down?"
And "How's it ever gonna turn around?"
So, I turned my eyes to Heaven,
I thought, "God, why don't You do something?"
Well, I just couldn't bear the thought of
People living in poverty,
Children sold into slavery.
The thought disgusted me.
So, I shook my fist at Heaven,
I said, "God, why don't You do something?"
God said, "I did." Yeah. "I created you."
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