This weekend, we celebrated our daughter turning six. She experienced all the simplest joys of childhood -- eating a favorite meal, opening a few presents from her brothers and parents, blowing out birthday candles.
This weekend, we were able to watch all three of our children sing, dance, and worship in church. I love this annual service at our church, when all of the Sunday school classes, dressed in their holiday finery, remind us in words and song why we celebrate Christmas.
But this weekend, I couldn't help seeing everything through a lens of grief for 26 families in Connecticut, and also for the family of the young man who caused their agony.
I know that this tragedy happened amidst all kinds of other tragedies across the globe -- wars, refugee crises, famine, preventable illnesses -- that ended the lives of thousands of children that same day. But I think that the intentionality and deliberateness of one person taking the lives of children is what caved in my heart. And also the fact that I had sent my kindergartner off to school that same morning, just like those other families, with the expectation of seeing her live through the day.
As I watched the rows of children in church singing about another Child, I wept. Part of me thought about the blessedness of my children being safe and alive at that moment, while part of me wondered how likely it might be that someone could shatter that illusion of safety any moment with gunfire.
And then, after the children finished and walked down the aisles, I longed for something to renew my hope. And hope was breathed into my heart.
Our guest speakers on Sunday were Stuart and Jill Briscoe. They have been in ministry over 40 years, and weathered a good many storms. I love how they teach, and love their British accents too. Jill shared a poem from one of her books that breathed hope in the midst of pain.
I have been thinking about one particular phrase (the title of this post). Jill talked about when Mary, the mother of Jesus, was visited by an angel and agreed to obey God even though it could've meant divorce, public humiliation for her family, being an outcast, or even being stoned for adultery. The stakes were high as she considered what Gabriel said.
Then Mary asked a question -- not "Why?" or "Why me?", but rather "How?"
How in the world would God accomplish this strange and dangerous thing? What did it mean? How would it end?
And the angel answered, 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.' Luke 1:35
Jill focused on that phrase -- at the very moment Mary was overwhelmed with questions and impossibility and uncertainty, she heard that she would be overshadowed by the power of the Most High. The trustworthy, mighty, perfect God would overshadow her. And that gave her the courage to give her "yes" to God . . . to trust Him in the face of what would surely be a dire situation.
When she was overwhelmed, she was overshadowed.
When we are overwhelmed, we need to remember that we too are overshadowed by the power of the Most High.
When we try and imagine parents' pain as their tiny ones are laid to rest, remember that He overshadows those families with love, grace and holy tears. When we struggle ourselves with anger and grief at young lives cut unjustifiably short, remember that we are overshadowed by the One who can bring healing, mercy and justice. When we are overwhelmed by evidence of evil, do not forget that we are overshadowed by the One who already has the final victory over evil, hell and the grave.
When we are overwhelmed, remember that we are overshadowed.