School shootings—when the innocent suffer
God comforts us—and all.
By Beulah M. Roegge

Our hearts break when the innocent suffer—whether in the recent school shooting in Colorado or in the war in Kosovo. If our prayers for peace have not prevailed and prevented such suffering, can we expect them to mitigate the sorrow and future damage? The answer is a sober, but not a tentative, "Yes." Prayer that acknowledges God has power on earth.

The temptation is that when our prayers have not proved to be preventive in the way that we would like, we cease praying. We can right now turn from such temptation to the study and meditation that will increase our understanding of God and strengthen our faith.

The prayerful embrace that an unselfed love offers is felt by the victims of tragedies of all kinds. Testimonies published in the Sentinel document specific instances when individuals have felt themselves beneficiaries of prayers from unknown sources. Such prayers, full of faith and seeking the welfare of all mankind, are uttered around the clock. We cannot weigh their influence and must not discount it. Christ Jesus, whose prayers were the most influential of any individual on earth, instructed that our prayers begin by acknowledging our relation to God, the presence of His kingdom, and the fulfillment of His will on earth (see Matt. 6:9–13).

Jesus proved the power of prayer for others and tested its efficacy in his life under the most extreme conditions. Innocent of all wrongdoing, nevertheless he faced crucifixion. Most feel that he had the power to escape his humiliation and torture if he exercised his prayers to this end. Actually, he began by asking God to "remove this cup" from him. But he added "not my will, but thine, be done" (Luke 22:42). His prayer, even though painful to utter, resulted in the greatest event in human history—his resurrection and ascension.

This triumph of innocency and faith can bring reassurance to those who have lost loved ones, especially as a result of conflict of any kind. God has not forsaken them and theirs. Science and Health declares: "God is at once the centre and circumference of being. It is evil that dies; good dies not" (pp. 203–204). It takes such an eternal and infinite viewpoint to keep our prayers firm and constant.

When news reports show carnage, we must not allow them to deaden our hope and faith, but rather use them to bring specificity to our prayers. Once I was advised "to be willing to look at error (or evil) long enough to handle it." Since then, I have added "and no longer." For me that means not to ignore the news or to be absorbed, frightened, or titillated by it. Rather, these reports can inform our prayers. After one has heard the basic information, one can turn off the television and lift thought up to God. This resort to prayer is not escapist; it is turning to the one power that is truly all-power. On the other hand, moving horizontally—that is, turning the dial to something more pleasant—may well be an attempt to escape our obligations to those involved more closely in the conflict.

As we are made aware of tragic losses, we need to search more deeply into what God, Life, is and the eternality of individual identity. Most religions teach that there is a good Supreme Being, who may be called upon for help on earth. Many recognize Christ, as exemplified by Jesus, to be the link between this great goodness and mankind. The Science of Christ makes clear that this Christly link is not only in reach of everyone, but also constitutes the actual, spiritual identity of man as God’s image and likeness, the individuality that He creates. Our prayers can affirm that this Christliness is the real identity of everyone in harm’s way, and also the continuing identity of those who are lost to us.

Our prayers may well reflect the same missionary zeal that, over the centuries, has motivated devout people to take the gospel message to far-off lands. With fervor we can affirm that Christ is always within the hearts of humankind. A friend, who now makes his home in a third world country that is called non-Christian, has always welcomed our prayers for the prosperity of his adopted nation. He assures us that we do not need to take Christ there but to pray that this manifestation of God’s presence not be hidden.

A modern-day explication of Christ’s universality and practicality is found on page 332 of Science and Health. Here Christ is recognized as "...the true idea voicing good, the divine message from God to men speaking to the human consciousness." Further along on that page, the activity of Christ is also seen as "...revealing the divine Principle, Love, and leading into all truth." Christ, bearing God’s message, speaks to every man, woman, and child. These sentiments are expressed eloquently in the twenty-third Psalm: "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me" (verse 4).

Our prayers, filled with Christly truths, not only comfort the suffering heart but attack the evil that must be eradicated. Mere human power is inadequate to destroy evil or even to contain and control it. Only the power of God, infinite good, can do this. The role of prayer in the extinction of evil is a powerful one. The prayer that affirms God to be omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient, leaves no room for the possibility of a real evil.

Fear, greed, egotistical assumptions of power, disdain for human life, may appear to be expanding as we are made more aware of acts of terror against unsuspecting, innocent victims. Centuries ago the Psalmist observed: "I have seen the wicked in great power, and spreading himself like a green bay tree. Yet he passed away, and, lo, he was not: yea, I sought him, but he could not be found" (Ps. 37:35, 36). It is important that we not demonize one person or group of persons and hope that they "will pass away." As noted earlier, it is "evil that dies."

In Science and Health, an answer to the question "What is man?" includes this observation: "Error, urged to its final limits, is self-destroyed" (p. 476). When we let prayer help us separate evil from our concept of anyone, we hasten evil’s self-destruction. Without a person to express it, evil has no semblance of presence or power. As we seek to find man to be God’s own image, any goodness in individual character becomes apparent and can be aided to flourish.

It takes great self-discipline to look at evil and then look beyond it to a spiritual reality that is altogether good. Whether in armed conflicts around the world, violent attacks in inner cities, or school shootings, there are innocent victims in each of these situations. Being stirred by these losses to pray for peace, instead of expressing indifference toward them, is a state of thought that leads to blessings.

Our Master’s promise "Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted" (Matt. 5:4) is applicable not only to those who have occasion for sorrow, but for all who mourn with them. Such mourning is not self-indulgent or closing oneself off to God’s power. Rather, it is the expression of the Christly compassion Jesus felt throughout his life. Seeking comfort for human injustices directs thought to God’s mercy. Here is where our thought must rest.

A merciful God would not allow the innocent to suffer, nor create situations where one must inflict suffering on another. Our need is to learn more of this merciful God, to live our lives and to help others live in the light of this truth.

Then the centuries-old prophecy "Neither shall they learn war any more" (Isa. 2:4) will be wholly fulfilled.

When news reports show carnage, we must not allow such reports to deaden our hope and faith.

Seeking comfort for human injustices directs thought to God’s mercy.

Copyright 1999 The Christian Science Publishing Society. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved

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