"But if you withhold forgiveness from others your Father withholds forgiveness from you.”
Matthew 6:15 TPT
When a senseless incomparable tragedy strikes how do we cope? When we’re angry and hurting how do we heal? When we have anxiety and fear about our safety how do we move on? In the midst of evil, how can we trust God is still good? Honestly, even as a Christian, I’ve struggled with these questions. C.S. Lewis said, “To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.”
I live in the small town of Thousand Oaks about 40 miles north of the hectic city, Los Angeles. We use to be a little spec on the map that not too many people knew of—if you did know, you moved here, like we did. It’s close to the city but removed enough to be quiet and safe — brimming with open land, hiking trails and horses you’ll still see trotting on the side of the road. It’s close to the beach, but far enough away so we didn’t have to sell an arm and leg to live here. Since 2002 this has been our home. Our kids grew up here, graduated high school here and got baptized here. November 7, 2018, was a day like any other—until it turned out to be a day like no other.
I was the last one to turn in for the night and right before I was getting into bed I heard siren after siren zoom by. To some this may not be unusual, but here that isn’t normal. My fleeting thought was there must be a big car accident nearby. I cozied into bed and shortly thereafter a text came in. (Something else that isn’t normal at 11:30 at night.) And then another. And another. I decided I better see what’s going on.
As I read the text I could feel my heart beating faster, my breathing became more shallow, my hands began to shake…”There’s been a shooting at Borderline,” ”Please pray, I can’t reach 2 of my friends,” “Mass shooting at Borderline kids are dead.” A panic attack was setting in. This is too close to home—WAIT this is my home! I use to go here. I couldn’t wrap my head around it. College kids were there—the same ages as my sons. Kids that grew up here and were well known in this community. It could have easily been my boys and their friends there that night.
In Thousand Oaks this sort of thing doesn’t happen— but it did! Then you realize your small little suburban town isn’t immune to violence—it’s now on “the list”; evil doesn’t discriminate, and our quaint little town is now well known for all the wrong reasons. I don’t want Thousand Oaks to be defined by a mass shooting. That’s not who we are. I don’t believe any place where a mass shooting, or any other tragedy has happened, wants to be on “the list” and reminded of the evil that happened one dreadful day. Because in the ashes there is always beauty and, long after talk of the shooting is over what remains is how community came together in the aftermath; how we treated each other; how we were there for each other; how it has forever changed us as a community for the better.
Instead of a Mass Shooting list maybe we can have a list for Communities that Rise Up so people can remember that instead. I want our town be defined as one that carries light and hope in a moment of tragedy; a community that pulled together to grieve, to fundraise, to donate, to help, to pray, to love, to bury, to be there for each other. A community that has not only prayed for the victims and their families and friends, but a community that’s been intentional in praying for the shooter and his family.
As a mom, I couldn’t imagine getting that news. I’d have so much guilt asking where did I go wrong. There would be so many questions going through my head. And then, having to deal with people that blame you. As for the shooter, I can’t imagine the isolation and loneliness that would drive a person to such an extreme measure. So for those that ask how do we cope, how do we heal, how do we move on after such events, here’s my answer: By being intentional. We have to be intentional to surround ourselves with community—we weren’t made to do life alone; intentional in praying together; intentional at being kinder to people we pass along the way; intentional in spending more quality time with family and friends; intentional in helping others; but mostly, by being intentional and forgiving. It’s not easy when you’re in the midst of grieving. It’s easier to justify holding on to anger and pain. But like Jesus says in Matthew 6:15 (TPT), “if you withhold forgiveness from others your Father withholds forgiveness from you.”
Just as we are called to love, we are also called to forgive—even the unforgivable. God must have felt the same way when they tortured and crucified his only son yet we are forgiven, and we are loved. It doesn’t mean because we forgive we’re going to forget, or that forgiving makes it all okay. It does, however, give us peace that passes understanding. Because, quite frankly, we will never understand. Forgiving is for YOU. Not the other person. It frees your heart from feeling that continual anger and pain. Can we still trust that God is good even in the midst of evil? Romans 8:28 TPT sums that up perfectly,
“So we are convinced that every detail of our lives is continually woven together to fit into God’s perfect plan of bringing good into our lives, for we are his lovers who have been called to fulfill his designed purpose.”
Romans 8:28 TPT
I’ll always believe God is good even when the circumstances don’t feel that way because of His promises and what He has done for us. He is a good good Father! Life isn’t easy. It’s messy and difficult filled with hurt, sorrow and suffering that we’ll never understand. God reminds us of this over and over again. The question is: Do we want to become more like Christ through the tragedy? If your answer is yes then always choose forgiveness even when you think you can’t.
Taryn Foster - Guest Blogger
Taryn is a self-taught artist working with fluid acrylic and resin. She creates abstract and beach inspired art, along with functional home decor. Her paintings are filled with emotion, energy and hope that transcends beyond the surface taking you on a visual journey. Her work is an unplanned organic heartfelt expression of the passion and spirit ignited within her at the time. Art is a form of worship for her and reinforces what she was created for. Her artwork can be found
Here you will find a mix of encouraging and inspirational articles written from members within the Community of Christian Creatives.