I was standing in line at Walmart when the thought crossed my mind, “What would I do if gunshots suddenly rang out?” I knew it could happen, because shoppers in a Colorado store recently experienced it.
Driving home, I passed my church, and reflected on the massacre in a house of worship in Texas only a week earlier.
Nearby I saw the college where I work, and envisioned our regular “active shooter” drills.
It seems as if our country has become a place where we can’t buy groceries, attend church, or go to school without fear that bullets will begin flying.
Maybe like me, you sometimes feel overwhelmed by the rapid-fire succession of news stories detailing mass shootings. I’m almost reluctant to turn on my TV, computer, or smartphone, for fear of hearing about another incident. (In fact, since I began writing this blog, several more horrific gun violence incidents have been reported.)
It’s tempting to live in a state of denial, become de-sensitized to tragedy, or exist in a constant “fight or flight” mode in response. Yet none of these options are healthy over the long-term.
So, how do we keep engaging life with a sense of peace and purpose when nowhere feels “safe?”
Here are seven suggestions:
1. Be prepared. Educate yourself about what to do if you encounter a life-threatening situation. In a mass-shooting scenario, there are appropriate times to flee, shelter/barricade in place, or fight. Knowing these strategies ahead of time can decrease fear and increase your chance of survival.
2. Be observant. Pay attention to your surroundings, no matter where you are. Listen to your gut. If someone or something seems suspicious or out of place, notify authorities.
3. Be proactive. Many shooters are individuals who have struggled with hurt, anger, or mental illness for years. Learn to recognize warning signs. Be informed about mental health resources, and refer or report someone (or yourself) before things escalate.
4. Be a peacemaker. Seek peace and pursue it. . . whether with family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, or strangers. Be someone who models grace, forgiveness, and kindness. Show respect for those who believe differently than you do. As Romans 12:18 advises, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”
5. Be brave. Evil’s goal, whether accomplished through a terrorist or a broken person, is to create fear that diminishes your life. While you should act with wisdom and discernment, your best counter-attack is to keep living life to its fullest. You can bolster your bravery by remembering the truth of Joshua 1:9, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
6. Be prayerful. God invites you to “cast your cares upon Him,” because he cares for you (I Peter 5:7). When you talk to Him about your anxieties and needs, you open the door to receive peace that will guard your heart and mind in any circumstance (Philippians 4:6-7). Taking time to regularly connect with God through prayer strengthens your faith and paves the way for His presence, provision, and perspective.
7. Be sure of heaven. My dear father was an artillery soldier in World War II. On the battlefield, he knew that a bullet or shell could end his life at any moment, yet he wasn’t afraid. Several of his Army buddies asked him why he didn’t fear dying. Dad told them it was because he knew his life was in God’s hands. He had accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior, and he knew he would go to heaven if he died. Decades later, I witnessed that same assurance when he walked through the valley of the shadow of death at age 93. Being sure of your eternal future paves the way for peace in this life.
Since none of us knows what tomorrow may bring, let’s make the most of every opportunity we are given today. Though we live in dangerous times, we don’t need to be paralyzed by fear.
Instead, let’s place our faith in the One who died so we can truly live.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
If you would like to know more about receiving Jesus as your Savior, click here.
More wisdom from my dad’s life: