A Christian perspective on hope in the face of terrorism.
Amputated limbs. Bodies scarred by shrapnel. Three people dead, including an eight-year-old boy who just wanted to cheer on his father.
To say it’s hard to make sense of a tragedy like the bombing at the Boston Marathon is a vast understatement. Hurting the innocent and the young defies the comprehension of most human beings, regardless of race, gender, religion, or creed. The shock value and horrifying nature of what’s been done strip us of our sense of safety, peace, and well-being.
The anger, frustration, and questioning that follow are equally unsettling. Whether a victim, a bystander, an emergency responder, or even a spectator thousands of miles away, most people are shaken by what occurred in Boston.
How could such a thing happen? Why would someone want to kill or injure innocent civilians? Our sense of order—our belief that our society is safe and invulnerable to such chaos—is disrupted and our understanding of the world is disturbed.
Our leaders do their best to restore what’s been lost—quickly. Hours after the pair of bombs tore through the Boston Marathon crowd, the White House publicly condemned the attacks and law enforcement officials vowed to do everything in their power to bring the perpetrators to justice, even planning a “worldwide investigation,” according to news sources.
Such pledges of quick and decisive action are certainly beneficial, like a soothing balm that softens—though doesn’t heal—the painful blister left behind by senseless violence. There’s comfort in the thought of dozens of agents and officers exhausting all resources on a coordinated manhunt to identify the guilty. And when those responsible are found, we all hope for severe penalties.
But an arrest and a conviction—though satisfying to a degree—seldom signify the end of the atrocity for those most damaged by it. There is still something lacking. Take the terrorist strikes on 9/11. Over a decade has passed, but the suffering has not stopped for the survivors and the victims’ families.
The general population struggles, too, recognizing that this atrocity occurred on native soil, aimed at the innocent civilians of this country. Memorials must be held. The dead must be honored. We all must continue to remember—and pledge never to forget—so that this won’t happen to us again. It’s hard to find hope in such times.
But somehow hope remains. As Christians, we are told that God cares deeply for each one of us1 and knows even the number of hairs on our heads.2 Despite the countless things that trouble our minds, despite frightening events beyond our control, we are to rest assured that God is above all. Though it can sometimes seem impossible, Christians are called to trust in God’s power and plans to create wonders beyond our comprehension.
Ironically, some of these wonders are most evident in the midst of tragedy. Just look at the selflessness of the emergency responders and the large number of Good Samaritans who rushed into danger in Boston, in New York at the World Trade Center, and aboard United Airlines Flight 93. Time and again we are shown that though evil is evident in this world, it is not all powerful. Good trumps it in the end.
More comforting still, Christians believe, is the promise God has given us through the life, death, and resurrection of his son, Jesus Christ. By taking our sins upon himself, Jesus enabled us to look beyond the torn and scarred borders of this world and rest our eyes on the promise of eternal glory that awaits on the other side of death. Nothing—neither random accidents nor chronic illness nor terrorist violence—can take that hope from us.
The world we live in is imperfect, damaged, and fallen. No one on earth can escape pain, suffering, and death. However, Christians believe that Jesus will return to earth again. At this time, he will restore and redeem our world to the way it was created to be. “‘There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things [will have] passed away.”3
As the apostle Paul wrote in the book of Romans, “I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”4