I have just returned from a wonderful pilgrimage in Ireland. While traveling, our group visited Northern Ireland as well as sites in the Republic of Ireland. We learned a lot about the “The Troubles” of 1968–1998 and the history of tensions between Catholics and Protestants from our tour guide, a Catholic historian from the Republic, and our coach driver, a Belfast-born Protestant.
We quickly learned, however, that “The Troubles” and ongoing tensions aren’t really about religion. It happens that the unionists, who wanted Northern Ireland to remain part of the United Kingdom, are overwhelmingly Protestant and the republican or nationalist minority, who wanted Northern Ireland to remain part of the Republic of Ireland, are almost exclusively Catholic. Discrimination, tension, and violence between the two groups became headline news for three decades. Extremists from both sides continue attacks of various kinds still today.
I’ve simplified a complex political situation in order to borrow The Troubles as a way we may be thinking of recent months in North America. Wildfires, hurricanes, flooding, a terrorist attack, and two mass shootings—one in a church—have devastated many lives and much property. The effects on our psyches are less tangible but no less real.
How do we make sense of so much tragedy? What answers can we give a child—or even ourselves—about how our all-loving and all-powerful God can allow such terrible things to happen? Fred Rogers, an ordained Presbyterian minister and beloved creator of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” said his mother always told him to “look for the helpers” in times of tragedy. He summarizes, “If you look for the helpers, you’ll know that there’s hope.”
As Christians, we are people of hope. We know that Easter Sunday follows Good Friday. We know that Jesus’ Death led to the promise of eternal life for all who follow him. In times of trouble, we’re inspired by the heroic acts of those who step in to help. We find comfort in knowing that even though God allows bad things to happen, he is our constant hope and help in times of trouble. And we can be confident that the good we do each day as servants of God’s kingdom has a ripple effect in our world. God is calling each of us to be a helper and a sign of hope in our troubled world.
Find a Blessing in Times of Trouble here.
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Image credit: Jon McKamey