“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.
Amen! Thank you for reminding us that God alone is our safe place, and He longs to comfort and take care of us if we will allow and depend on Him.
Marie Chan says
Yes, we can find peace in God’s embrace and strength. Thank you for reading my story. I am grateful you were encouraged.
Melissa Ens says
Thank you, Marie, for the reminder that God is near even when evil strikes. “They continued to cling to God, instead of their fears.” What a testimony! Thank you for the reminder that nothing can separate us from his love and that the anchor of truth holds even in the worst storms. May God continue to bring hope and healing. ❤️
Marie Chan says
Thank you Melissa for your encouragement. I need the daily reminder to have faith over fear too.
Ariel Krienke says
Great encouragement to count to God instead of fear. When illness strikes like the pandemic churches who stay open are so helpful to ripping us in the joy of the Lord in the midst of strife. Corinthians tells us that love always protects. So some people having knowledge of how to protect others in church is a blessing.
Marie Chan says
I am glad you were encouraged to place your faith in God’s strength, instead of fear. Thank you for taking the time to read my story.
Dawn Ferguson-Little says
Marie thank you for sharing this. We all can look at all that going on in our world today. Look at Man that want to destroy it. They don’t care about the pain and hurt they cause. I hear about on the News about other shooting in other parts the world Families left in sadness. I go into prayer for them and Man that does this. Because of the shootings in that part of the world because of Man who does not care about life that our Lord gave us and people who lost someone else to them. People can blame God say why God did you let this happen. It was not God’s fault. It was Man doing wrong and not caring who get hurt or what devastation and sadness they cause. God see all. We that are saved are to Pray for them that cause this pain. That they will change their lives around find the one true saviour Jesus. Stop all the hurt sadness and pain they are causing people. We have ask God to be with the people left in sadness. That he God will draw close to them and they will know God is close to them. We also have to ask God to give us the faith and peace at times like this when things like this happen. Let us remember as Psalm 23 verse 1 & 4 says. “The Lord is my Shepherd I shall not want. Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil For you are with me. Your rod and staff they comfort Me.” How true theses two verse are for us. Especially in times like this. I say Amen to that. Love Dawn Ferguson-Little xx
Marie Chan says
Thank you Dawn for praying for these families who have experienced so much grief and loss. Truly, the Lord is our shepherd who comforts us.
Beth Williams says
So sorry for the tragedy that you & your church family endured. Asking God to comfort everyone. Evil lurks all around us. Yet God is in the midst of it all too. In the midst of our trials & tribulations we need to put our hope & trust in Jesus. He alone can give us a sense of peace.
Marie Chan says
I appreciate your care and kind words. Yes, true peace comes from Christ alone. Thanks for reading my story.
Melanie Norris says
Such a raw and honest look at the horrifying realities of life. Thank you for sharing your perspective and for allowing us to enter your processing of such a terrible event. Thank you for bringing to light that our peace is found in God’s presence, not in places on earth. That deeply touched me. Blessings to you!
Marie Chan says
Thank you friend for taking the time to read my story! I am grateful that it encouraged you.