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Christchurch Shootings: Hope Amidst Tragedy

Screenshot taken from Guardian News Video

 

I spent most of the weekend in a gloomy stupor as I recalled the horrific incident that had fallen on Christchurch.

On Friday afternoon, 28-year-old Brenton Tarrant had opened fire in two Christchurch mosques, resulting in the deaths of 50 people, and injuring another 40. The youngest victim, Mucad Ibrahim, was just three years old. Tarrant has since been charged with murder, and is held in custody until April.

While I was not personally affected by the shootings, as I live in Auckland, I was stunned that my beautiful country, New Zealand, would be the target of such a hate crime.

I had first learned of the shooting while scrolling my Facebook feed, and the opening line of a post by a New Zealand Christian radio station, Life FM, caught my eye.

“Absolutely devastated to hear about the mass shootings in Christchurch today,” the post read. My brain grinded to a halt at the words “mass shooting” and “Christchurch”. I refreshed my news feed twice to make sure I wasn’t seeing things. Part of me felt like I was living in a bad dream, yet another part of me knew that what I was reading was very real.

Prime Minister Jacinda Arden called the attacks “New Zealand’s darkest day”. And in the wake of this tragedy, the entire nation has come together to mourn. Radio stations were in a sombre mood, with DJs expressing their outrage at Friday afternoon’s event. Callers to the radio station texted their messages of sympathy to the victims and their families, with many saying they “did not know what to do” with themselves in the aftermath of such a tragedy.

Vigils were held across the country, while public performances and concerts were cancelled. A donation page on Give A Little has been set up for the victims, and $5.5 million has been collected to date. Auckland’s St Matthew’s church lit 50 candles and rung the bells 50 times for the victims of the mosque attacks.

Yet amid the darkness, stories of hope and courage have emerged over the last 48 hours. It warmed my heart to hear that messages of condolences and support for New Zealand were pouring in from around the globe, and that churches all over the world also took time to pray for the victims and their families.

One story that stood out to me was the one about Andrew Graystone from Manchester, who stood outside his local mosque during their Friday prayers in solidarity with the Christchurch victims. He held a plaque that read, “You are my friends, I will keep watch while you pray”.

Stories such as these remind us both of the horrifying reality of the world we live in—and the goodness that still abounds in the hearts of men. They remind us how much we all need that glimmer of hope to light up the darkness we see around us.

Even as news of the rising death tolls have been trickling in, I’ve also seen my friends find hope in the self-sacrificial acts of those who attempted to do all they could to save others. The New Zealand Herald tells of 48-year-old Abdul Aziz, who ran after the gunman with a credit card machine (it was the first thing he could find) while screaming “Come here!” at the offender.

Survivor of the attack, Ali Adeeba, told the BBC how his dad had taken a bullet for him: “A [bullet] went past my face and it burned my face. It didn’t even touch me, but it burned, so I could only feel for the people that got shot by them.” His dad is now in an induced coma.

Sadly, some of them died while trying to save others. According to the BBC, Daoud Nabi, 71, was the first of the victims to be identified, and he was believed to have thrown himself in front of other people in the mosque to protect them when the gunman burst in.

These stories inspire and give us hope because we feel defenseless and rattled in the face of such horrors—and there’s comfort in knowing that we’re not fighting this alone. As Christians, we also know of someone who sacrificed His life so that none of us will have to fear death—Jesus Christ. Because of His death and resurrection, we now bear the hope that regardless of what happens in the world around us, He is our “refuge and strength” (Psalm 46:1). And one day He will “wipe every tear”, and there will be “no more death or mourning or crying or pain” (Revelation 21:4).

How then can we comfort others with the hope that we have during this time of grief, heartache, and uncertainty? A verse that is close to my heart is Psalm 34:18, which says that God is near to the brokenhearted, and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

As a fellow immigrant, I cannot imagine what it must be like to move to a new country in hopes of a better life, only to have it snatched away in one senseless act of cruelty. I can only imagine that it must be a terrifying time for these victims and their families.

It is incredibly hard to make sense of this cold-blooded act, and while not all of us may be in a position to help out physically or financially, we can mourn with those who mourn, and pray for God’s peace and strength to be upon the victims and their families.

Don’t Let Depression Define You

Editor’s Note: This article contains details of the author’s struggle with depression and self-harm.

The first few years, it was simply a sudden and unexpected heaviness of heart and mind. The feeling of being stuck in thick darkness and finding no safety. But it was overwhelming.

Losing control of my mind, seeing fear take over. Despair settling in. Hopelessness filling my heart.

I felt empty. I could see, but without understanding or emotion.

I was walking in a haze, just mindlessly going with the flow.

What I could feel was only confusion.

I passed each day confined to my mind. Depression suffocating my thoughts. It pulled the shades down on any window I encountered that might offer me a view of hope or a future. Sometimes it felt like there was no escape from the emptiness of my mind. I carried the heaviness of absence everywhere I went. But, I still wanted to have a normal, happy life.

Deep, deep down I knew there are wonders to be discovered, there is a future to behold, a purpose to fulfill. I wanted to be there to experience it all.

“But who am I? What am I even worth?” I could no longer see purpose and direction, my vision had been blurred by the fog.

I reached the climax this year, in 2018.

Clenching my head with both hands, I yelled for it to stop, to leave me alone. But the darkness became even more unbearable, circling and enclosing me tighter and tighter. I craved for escape and relief, but felt bound to fear. Unable to even cry out.

Only one solution floated through my mind, sly and intoxicating. A voice repeating over and over, “Hurt yourself, hurt yourself.”

I didn’t recognize this voice, but it taunted me and would not desist until it was obeyed. As my mind slowly gave in, it became enraptured with an obsessive urge to hurt myself. To end my life. Now there was only the desire of freedom from the ties of this pressing darkness.

25 cuts.

The pain was terrifying, but I could not stop , I needed to escape from what had become a mental prison.

25 glides.

The blade ran across my skin, one long etch after another. “This isn’t truly what I want, it can’t be.” I’m someone who has wanted to live life to the fullest, embracing all that’s grand and extraordinary.

25 slashes.

“This can’t be the answer. Where is God?” I knew I needed help, and I desperately wanted it from Him. I knew He could help. But would He still listen?

Countless tears.

I look up, unable to call out, unable to see clearly, unable to feel much in my heart.

Then all of the sudden, a picture of a rope came into my mind. A hope to latch onto—Calling on His Name.

His holy, almighty Name.

The truest, most sincere cry arose from my heart. I couldn’t speak, my crying had turned to convulsions. But surely, even then He could hear me.

I felt a presence near me.

A presence greater than any other I’d felt. The room no longer seemed as if it were closing in. A breath of fresh air began flowing through me.

“Jesus, Jesus,” whispered my heart, “save me.”

And then, I saw again. I could feel again. Freedom. Release. Renewal. Peace. Purpose. The words came rushing in. Not from the voice before that was speaking harm, but a voice of truth and salvation. A voice of power and authority over all darkness and fear.

A voice that made the darkness flee and light burst in. All at the mere mention of its name. A voice my soul recognized as the only one worth listening to.

The voice of my King, my Lord, my Father.

 

…do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior… (Isaiah 43:1-3)

 

Worth lies in Him (Luke 12:7). Purpose comes from Him (1 Peter 2:9). Strength is found in Him (Psalm 46:1). Peace flows from Him (Philippians 4:7). I am first and foremost His (1 John 3:1). I belong, for I am loved (Jeremiah 31:1).

I am loved. Deeply and passionately. His own scars prove it. His own marks show my value (1 Peter 2:24).

My gaze need not be on my self-inflicted scars, but rather resting on the illustrious glory of my Savior and the wounds He already bore in my place to give me life.

The depths of His love far surpass any darkness or fear.

How deep, how wide, how high is His love for us (Ephesians 3:18). For me. For you.

What beautiful, never-ending, unfailing, infinite love.

This is my story. It’s not an ending, but rather a beginning of renewed hope and joy. God restores and God redeems. Take courage.

As Christmas draws near, allow the word “hope” to resound in your mind. Allow it to manifest itself all the way into your heart and your soul. That is what Christ was born for, to bring hope. You have hope in Him as your powerful Savior and loving Father.

 

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. (1 Peter 1:3-6)

 

*In 2014, I started battling depression. In 2015, anxiety entered the picture. But it wasn’t until the end of 2017 that I finally got professional help and in 2018, was diagnosed with clinical depression and social anxiety. With the help of a wonderful Christian counselor as well as a Christian psychiatrist, I hopped on the road to recovery through medication and a renewed understanding of God’s love for me.

I recognize the need to fight depression both on the spiritual and biological front. This is so important for anyone struggling with mental illness to understand .

This doesn’t mean I’ll never experience hardship again. And taking medication is not the permanent solution, I could struggle with mental illness the rest of my life. Or not. I don’t know.

But even in the darkest moments, God never leaves me. And He will never leave you.

It’s okay to reach out and ask for help, both from Him and from people you trust. There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting help to live a better, healthier life.

At the end of the day though, remember and hold on to the fact that God is your hope. He will always make a way forward.

I Just Wanted A Restart

Editor’s Note: This article includes details about the author’s suicidal attempts. 

Written By Shu Huan, Malaysia, Originally In Simplified Chinese

It was not the first time I tried to end my own life.

It was as if I had sunk into a sea of emptiness. In despair, all I could do was curl up in a ball, hold my breath, and hope that life—and my pain—would end quickly. But my willpower could not overcome my body’s survival instincts. I held my breath until the most unbearable moment, but then my tightened muscles loosened, and breath returned.

On that cold and lonely night, I cried until my voice was gone. But nobody would ever know. Nobody would ever care.

From a young age, throwing tantrums, yelling loudly, and bullying my brother were staples of my life. I had “second-child syndrome,” and always felt that I was the child with the fewest achievements, so I was the least respected by my parents. My grades were not as good as my younger brother’s, and my extracurricular activities were not as impressive as my older sister’s.

Because of my low self-esteem, I would resort to extreme words and actions to express my displeasure at the smallest things. This wore my parents out. Even if they angrily beat or scolded me, I would do the same things again the next day.

As I entered the rebellious stage of adolescence, I was always ill-tempered at home, often blaming my strict father of few words and my often angry mother. Even though I had many friends around me, I felt like there was a bottomless dark hole in my heart.

The emptiness I felt could not be filled by any amount of laughter or jokes. Everyday I went to school, and after school went to tutoring and extracurricular activities. . . Life looked busy, but it was all so meaningless. All this prompted me to wonder about the meaning of life, and eventually I started thinking about ending my life.

Various plans circled in my mind. I once motioned a razor over my wrist, but could not bring myself to cut down on it. I also tried suffocating myself under the blankets, but ultimately gave up. The furthest I went was when I grabbed some rope and was going to hang myself from a tree right in front my mother, much to her frustration.

Naively, I thought that after death I would be reincarnated, and could start anew with a whole new family and environment.

 

The Truth That Transformed My Life

“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)

At some point—I forget when—I started receiving a gospel publication for young people every month. Flipping through the fresh designs and rich content of the booklets, I was introduced to Christianity. As I read more about it, I realized that what awaits us after death is judgment, not reincarnation. Everyone will be responsible for their own actions carried out during their life on earth, and must give an account of it before the God who gave us our lives.

Once I started thinking about all the mistakes I made—all the ways I hurt people who loved me— I knew that if I really took my own life, I would face great punishment. I trembled in my heart.

Thankfully, God had mercy on my weakness, and had stopped me each time I tried to carry out my plans of suicide. Not only that,  the knowledge that He even sent His only son Jesus to the world, who willing sacrificed Himself on the cross to wash away my sins so I may be reconciled with God drew my attention. I was amazed at God’s promise that anyone who believes in and follows Jesus can build a relationship with God and enjoy Him throughout our lives. This was such incredibly wonderful news!

And so, I became interested in getting to know this God better. However, I was worried about my parents’ disapproval, so I didn’t go to church even though I wanted to.

But one day, my older sister committed her life to Christ under the guidance of a friend, and I had the opportunity to follow my sister to church. On that day, I accepted Jesus as Savior and Lord of my life.

I have now been a Christian for many years. The precious truths in the Bible have led me out of a life of self-blame and self-pity. God’s words have refreshed my soul (Psalm 23:1-3), and reshaped my worldview. I realized that my existence was not a mistake, but my life was purposefully knit together by a God who loves me.

Because of the life I now have in Christ, He watches over every step and decision I make. Whenever I start comparing myself with others again, or falling into depression and loneliness, the words of the Bible are like a soft voice by my ear, calming my distressed heart.

 

We Only Have One Chance At Life

In my father’s family, there is a history of systemic lupus erythematosus (also known as lupus). Sadly, my cousin, was also diagnosed with lupus at the age of 19. Her health declined quickly, and she needed to be on dialysis.

Even though she had to quit school because of her health, she still achieved top grades in the Malaysian Certificate of Education exam (an exam Malaysian students take at the end of high school). But her health worsened quicker than anticipated.

While her peers were preparing for college, she was sent to the hospital for major surgery after major surgery. She was so sick she could not eat, and became thinner by the day. In the end, she could not overcome the disease, and breathed her last while in the hospital. So her short and difficult life came to a close.

As we said goodbye to my cousin, my family and friends all felt that it was such a pity that she had such a short life. Her departure once again reminded us of the preciousness of life and how life, once it’s lost, cannot be regained.

Thinking back on how lightly I treated my own life, I feel incredibly ashamed. Even though we can’t control the circumstances and difficulties we face, but we can decide how we choose to respond to them. When I look back at my past, I cannot imagine where I might be today if God had not led me to Himself. Perhaps I would be like a withered leaf, wandering in the vast ocean of life, searching in vain for the meaning of my existence.

My suicidal attempts helped me realize that “the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy” but Jesus came that we may have life, “and have it to the full” (John 10:10). Even when we find it difficult to accept ourselves, God’s Word assures us that He values us and desires to offer us the hope of new life.

If your life feels empty and meaningless, and you’ve been entertaining thoughts of suicide, will you choose to take up His offer today?

Faith, Trust & Hope

Title: Faith, Trust & Hope
Artwork by: Kristen Stansell (@crafted.by)

 

Faith is knowing that God exists and we can follow Him.

“And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6)

Growing up in a Christian environment, I had a lot of knowledge about God. But there came a time when I wanted to seek God out for myself.

Who is He? Does He really love me as He says in His Word?

For a time, I chose to live my life according to my whims and fancies rather than God’s truth. And my life eventually hit rock bottom. In my despair and hopelessness, I cried out to God for help. He met me where I was and has turned my life around since then.

Don’t be afraid to cry out to God and ask Him to reveal Himself to you.

 

Trust is knowing that God is sovereign and His ways are higher than ours.

When we know who Jesus is, we can trust in His Word and His plans for our lives.

Sometimes, we may ask God for the same thing over and over again. We may demand for it immediately, refusing to wait any longer. But God might say:

“Not today. Trust Me. I know things that you don’t. It’s not time for you to have this.”

It is hard for us to comprehend why He withholds certain things from us, especially when others are enjoying those very things we have asked for. At times, we may think that He is punishing us when He says “no” or “not now”.

But as it says in Isaiah 55:8-9:

“‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.’”

Let’s strive to be faithful and trust Him to order each step of our lives. He knows what’s best for us. 

 

 

Hope is knowing that God is faithful and His promises are true.

“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful.” (Hebrews 10:23)

God doesn’t want us to be overwhelmed by our anxieties. When circumstances begin to weigh us down, He wants us to remember that we can always place our hope in Him and His promises.

Let us bring our requests to Him with thanksgiving and praise. As we praise God for who He is and what He has done on the cross, we can trust that His faithfulness will see us through our circumstances and our every need.