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Asylum seekers, war in Gaza, passenger plane deaths...How long, O Lord?

The tragedies we wake up to each day on our newsfeeds--such as the deaths of hundreds in a passenger plane shot from the sky--can be overwhelming.
The tragedies we wake up to each day on our newsfeeds--such as the deaths of hundreds in a passenger plane shot from the sky--can be overwhelming.
Photo by Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images

Social media feeds are, for many people, the new daily newspaper and evening news.

We follow stories as they develop on the ground in real-time through Twitter feeds and Facebook posts. Instead of letters to the editor which are published the following day/week/month, we comment instantaneously, weighing in with our thoughts, opinions or reactions so the world can know what we think. Hit counts and page views are the goal and thus headlines are tailored to SEO specifications in order to guarantee the most number of clicks. As a result, when major world events take place we are instantly aware and voices flood in through various outlets at an overwhelming pace.

This week has seen so many crises escalate that it's easy to get overwhelmed by all the evil in the world:

Scared, sick and hungry children gather at the border of the most abundant country in the history of the world...and are deemed "invaders."

Fanatical Hamas cynically fires ineffective, but instigatory, rockets by the hundreds from the overcrowded, blockaded and poverty-stricken enclave of Gaza into Israel...and Israel inevidably responds with the most powerful military force in that part of the world, killing hundreds of civilians in the process.

Over a hundred AIDS researchers are one moment on a peaceful flight with hundreds of other passengers...and the next moment their corpses are burning in the rubble of their airliner shot down over Ukraine.

As a friend and ministry colleague commented on my Facebook feed today: "I'm so disgusted with humanity of late."

How long will such evils continue unchecked?

How long will our news feeds be filled with such stories?

How long with the powerful rulers and leaders whose decisions determine life and death for so many in their charge act with pride, hatred, fear, greed or violence?

As I was looking through Scripture today, I did a search for this phrase: "How long?" It is VERY common. God's people have been crying out for thousands of years with these words during times of distress or suffering. Scripture itself provides the vocabulary of lament and encourages the people of God to glimpse, through the chaotic fog of uncertainty and fear, the presence of the One who is ultimately in control in the midst of their pain...having chosen to suffer alongside them through much of it.

I then came across one of the shortest Psalms in the Hebrew scriptures, directed at the rulers among humanity (particularly the corrupt or apathetic judges within ancient Israel) and it communicates poignantly the feelings I have when looking through the headlines this week. I invite readers to read through it slowly and reflect on the raw emotion combined with determined faith reflected in the words. Let the following prayer shape our own as we face the senselessness of the many evils humans often exhibit toward one another.

Psalm 82:1 - A Psalm of Asaph.

God has taken his place in the divine council;
in the midst of the 'gods' he holds judgment:

"How long will you judge unjustly
and show partiality to the wicked?
Give justice to the weak and the orphan;
maintain the right of the lowly and the destitute!
Rescue the weak and the needy;
deliver them from the hand of the wicked!"

They have neither knowledge nor understanding,
they walk around in darkness;
all the foundations of the earth are shaken.

I say, "You are 'gods', children of the Most High, all of you;
nevertheless, you shall die like mortals,

and fall like any prince."

Rise up, O God, judge the earth;
for all the nations belong to you!

The 'gods' of our world who rule, govern, judge and administer justice would do well to meditate on this Psalm...as would we all whenever we're tempted to demonize "the enemy" while overlooking the rampant injustice and unrighteousness in our midst.