This morning, my husband and I sat in the back of a medium-sized store front church filled with young people, mostly high school and college ages, it appeared. This university mountain town was left stunned and shaken after an act of violence four days ago left five dead, including two local police officers.
The worship time was sincere and meaningful as we sang about trusting God and standing for Jesus, even when we don’t understand what is happening around us. The pastor gave a timely message based on what God had impressed upon his heart in the wee hours of the morning, leaving him with only a couple hours of sleep. He had spent many hours earlier in the week sitting with and weeping with families as they waited to see if their young officer would return from the crime scene alive.
As I looked around the room, my heart was filled with compassion for the group of teens and young adults who had gathered for worship. As the pastor spoke of hope and God’s good plans for our lives, I couldn’t help but wonder how these young people felt about all that is going on in our nation, about what happened in their own community. Had their hopes for a bright future been dashed? Did they dare to keep dreaming of happiness? Could they still expect their hard work to reap success? Would they see God’s blessing in their lifetimes? Or, were they burdened down with the lies, the division and the unrest in the world?
Were they too discouraged to sing, to worship? No! Instead, I saw a group of young people hungry for the presence of God and for His strength. The pastor encouraged us to be the gatekeepers, that which holds out the bad and keeps in the good. He spoke of our place of love, forgiveness, prayer, and power—in contrast to division, hate, and hopelessness.
I left the service with a new perspective and an appreciation for our young people as they face the challenges ahead of them. I felt a connection with them, as we all find our places as gatekeepers, recognizing the power that has been given to us through God’s Holy Spirit to stand firm and to make a difference. We are not defeated. We are not weak. And we are not forsaken. God is with us and we can hold on to our hope—because God is still good!