“Marie, this just happened this afternoon. I’m wondering if our parents know anyone there.”
This unexpected text from a close friend jolted me from my peaceful, picture-perfect SoCal Sunday. Suddenly, the news of a shooting at a Taiwanese church in Laguna Woods became very personal. More texts trickled in about elderly friends — those I grew up calling auntie and uncle — who were there for the worship service but left early, and then one who was present when the shooting occurred during their luncheon.
Amahs and agongs, like those whom our family had shared many meals with and gathered for Bible study in my childhood home, now were attacked in a senseless act of violence.
Tension permeated my whole body — my shoulders tightened, jaw clenched, exacerbating my TMJ, and tears streamed down my cheeks. I found it difficult to concentrate, my heart heavy with the weight of it all. I kept checking the news, looking at my phone, wondering and hoping that there wouldn’t be any more names added to the list.
I felt shocked and grieved that this tragedy could happen in the same church building where my sister had her wedding. How could a place of joyous celebration become such a place of deep grief? What explanation should I give to my young daughter when she points at my sister’s family wedding photo and asks, “Is that where the shooting took place?”
During times like these, I find comfort in knowing that God understands my inner groanings when words elude me. God embraces me when I vent my gut-honest cries and unanswered questions.
“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.”
Romans 8:26 NIV
God’s Word provides space for us to process our pain through songs of lament. God assures us that He hears our cries and cares.
“You, Lord, hear the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry.”
Psalm 10:17 NIV
Being in a posture of lament shifts my perspective. Oftentimes, I admit, it is much easier to depend on my own strength and try to figure things out myself. But God wants me to recognize my limitations and come to the end of my self-dependence, so I can truly find rest in Christ as I cry out to Him.
It seems so counterintuitive, but if we can be in control of all of our circumstances, where is there room for faith to grow? Jesus encouraged the apostle Paul when healing on this side of heaven still had not come, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV). Likewise, I don’t need to be afraid or ashamed that I don’t have all the answers.
As a daughter of Taiwanese immigrants, I grew up attending a church composed of families from across the Asian diaspora. Church became more than just a place of worship; it was also a haven for elders and parents to speak their native language freely and be understood. Church was a refuge where immigrant families found community, belonging, and assistance as they transitioned to living in a new land. Now this sanctuary no longer felt safe. In fact, nowhere felt safe.
Through this incident, Jesus taught me that true peace is not found in a place on earth but in the presence of God. Jesus said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 NIV).
As I listened to pastors pray passionately in Taiwanese a few days following the shooting, I felt encouraged by their faith. This incident had shaken them, but they continued to cling to God, instead of their fears. God was holding them close, and He would hold me and my family too.
Their prayers reminded me that no matter what happens, God promises to be with me, even when things don’t make sense. “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39 NIV).
Nothing can separate us from His love.