At this time, we are still reeling from incoming news of the bomb blasts that went off at the Boston Marathon. News footage of twin explosions that went off within seconds of each other, reports of shattering glass, of individuals killed outright and many others injured and maimed, including young children, all combine to pummel the heart and reduce us to a state of shock. Though the President of the United States did not use the words “terrorist act” in his initial statement to the press, others from his office did later confirm that this is being treated as an act of terror, given that the explosions seemed to have been coordinated. Once again it seems that America is under attack. Whatever sense of ease, safety, and complacency we may have built up in the years since the horrific events of “9-11” is now being challenged. How should a Christian respond to all this?
In a word, with peace of heart. The Scriptures are replete with promises that God would keep and preserve His people who trust in Him. “The Lord will keep you from all evil; He will keep your life” (Ps. 121:7). “As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the Lord is round about His people from this time forth and forevermore” (Ps. 125:2) “The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him and delivers them” (Ps. 34:7). “You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor the destruction that wastes at noonday. A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you’ (Ps. 91:5-7)
It will be replied, of course, that in Boston, the fearful arrow did indeed fly by day, and destruction did indeed waste at noonday, and no one is suggesting that no Christians were harmed in that carnage. It seems that believers in Jesus and those who trust God have no special immunity from such disasters. When acts of terror occur, they touch all without discrimination, afflicting people utterly at random, whether or not they have faith in God. This being so, what of those promises of Scripture? Were they simply given in vain?
No, for no word of Scripture speaks in vain, and as Christ Himself said, “Scripture cannot be broken” (Jn. 10:35). But we must look deeply to understand what it means, and what its sacred poetry actually promises us.
The fact is that the world in which we live is a dangerous place throughout, and always has been. Women die in childbirth, children die in infancy, disease tears and ravages us throughout our life. Evil men murder and maim, wars carry off multitudes, tornadoes and floods and earthquakes work their terrible carnage, and men are martyred for the Faith. The bombs of Boston, horrifying as they are, should not markedly change our picture of the world—we knew that it was filled with suffering and death before any of today’s bombs went off. And yet it is in this world that God promises us true security.
The poetry and promises of the Old Testament find their final meaning and substance in Christ. Christ’s life and Cross reveal that security does not consist of avoiding suffering, but in being safe in God even in the midst of it. As St. Paul taught, our life is hidden with Christ in God (Col. 3:3). The Lord said the same thing: even those who suffered martyrdom and death for Him were safe—“not a hair of your head will perish” (Lk. 21:18). What? If they had suffered and died for Him, how could He promise that not a hair of their head would perish? Surely their whole body perished! Physically, yes. But where it counts, in eternity, no. In the age to come, they would arise and survive whole, sound, untouched and untouchable by any suffering.
This is the true and final meaning of those Old Testament promises of safety. Our earthly life will not finally end in death, but in unshakable joy and unending peace. Whether our bodies perish through martyrdom in the first century, or through falling towers in New York, or through bomb blasts in Boston, our real life remains hidden with Christ in God, safe at His right hand, far above earthly explosions, far above the arrow that flies. In the days to come, when more news emerges from Boston, we must remember the promises of God, and keep our hearts anchored in His peace. The twin blasts of Boston challenge us locate our security where it should be—not in this age, but in Jesus, and in His Kingdom.