My morning newspaper recently had a front-page photograph of a building in Pakistan that had been bombed by militants. The image seemed looming and final, written in stone.
This was in such contrast to other good, loving acts that I knew were going on in that region and around the world. Even the photograph showed rescue workers helping out in different ways. Some previous articles about that region had highlighted local people standing up in defense of their rights, safety, and well-being. This was evidence of good, even in the face of the violent images.
In my effort to find some inspiration, I thought about a verse from the Bible that provides instruction on how to pray about such a situation: "Do not fret because of evil men or be envious of those who do wrong" (Ps. 37:1, New International Version).
The psalm goes on to explain that each of us can trust in God to care for us. Fear never helps us accomplish anything. It's not productive. Neither is responding or reacting fearfully to a troubling or dangerous situation.
The second part really got my attention – do not envy the wrongdoer. I saw in this case that could mean the destructive power depicted in the photo. Would I really envy such a power? Not outrightly. But if I were impressed or overwhelmed by it, I might. Worse yet, I might want God to use similar power to destroy the evildoers.
This thought was in stark contrast to what I've come to know about God's loving protection of creation. How could I pray, affirming what I knew to be true about God's complete goodness and love, while being shocked into a sense of helplessness?
The Bible is filled with descriptions of people who found protection and well-being, even when they were surrounded by those with destructive intent. At the Red Sea, Moses led the children of Israel to safety while they were being followed by Pharaoh's army. Nehemiah supervised the rebuilding of the wall around Jerusalem under great pressure from enemies of the project. Had either man been overly impressed with the danger, he might not have been able to see God's present help and protection as available.
In the short term, destructive tactics might seem to impede or stop the activity of good in the world. But if you look at what happens after the fact, you'll frequently find people pulling together to restore what has been destroyed.
That's a sign of the fact that each of us is spiritual, and expresses our Maker, who is divine Love. It is the very nature of Love to build and nurture, and those allied to good also want to do this. Good actions have transforming power, even when there has been great trouble. This can be seen in the progress that Kenyans made in rebuilding and healing after the violence that followed their elections in 2007.
Mary Baker Eddy wrote, "All that worketh good is some manifestation of God asserting and developing good" ("Message to The Mother Church for 1900," p. 10). This growth and progress of good, however slow it might seem, is evidence of humanity's growing awareness of God's complete goodness. Just as darkness is gone when light shines, the destructive intentions are dissolved when met fearlessly with love. This development is what people are striving for, and what is meaningful and lasting.
Further inspiration lies in these verses from that same psalm: "Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart." This can be experienced when our desires move past selfish interests and we allow God to "assert and develop good" freely through us.