God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
Psalm 46:1
At least a couple times a week, it seems, we wake up to news of another unspeakable tragedy somewhere in our country. It seems that these horrific tragedies are happening more and more in the world today. So much so that we feel one of two things—We either become so accustomed to it that we become jaded or indifferent, or we cynically wonder why God allows these things to happen. 
I agree that when we are bombarded with tragedy after tragedy, we tend to tune out all tragedy. Nothing fazes us. However, I don’t become cynical when these things happen. I certainly don’t become cynical with God. God’s greatest gift to human beings besides our chance at salvation is free will. We can freely choose love. We can freely choose hate. God honors us in giving us freedom to choose one or the other. 
I recently read an article entitled “To Whom Do You Belong?” which talked about how our society has shifted from a society focused on God to a society where we are largely focused on ourselves. A focus on ourselves desires whatever is good for the individual, whether or not it hurts other people. A focus on God focuses on the good of the whole society. It focuses on love. It focuses on serving others, rather than putting forth the self. 
In times of sorrow, the first place we should go is to God in prayer. God is not a crutch, or a concept we’ve created so that we have someplace to go when the going gets tough. Lots of people outside Christianity think that. And lots of Christians seem to only go to God in tough times. 
God is our refuge and strength, in the words of the Psalmist, a very present help in times of trouble, and even times when there isn’t much trouble. When I am in trouble, the first place I go is to God: “Lord, be with me in this time of trouble.” I may call someone in my family, I may call a friend, but the first name I call on is the name of God. 
In this never-ending cycle of tragedy, before going to a friend or clicking through endless news stories and commentaries, the first thoughts should be to call upon the Lord to be in the midst of the tragedy, to heal the victims, to protect the first responders, to bring peace where there is chaos, to bring healing where there has been harm. 
When something good happens, the first place to go should also be to the Lord to thank Him. And when everything has gone wrong, the first place to go is also to the Lord, to ask for His help. He is our refuge, our strength, our hope, our help.
One of my favorite hymns is the Lenten hymn “Lord of the Powers.” I offer this as the prayer today. Pray this. If you know this hymn, sing it to yourself. Many of us have an “audio loop” on which a song will recur all day long that we’ve heard. Turn the music off today, and in your moments when you are driving, or when you are alone and listen to music, hum this hymn, over and over and over again, offering your thoughts and prayers for people who have been affected by the latest tragedy, people who are still recovering from the tragedies in the recent past, people who are still recovering from the hurricanes last fall, and people in general, who need God’s help.
Lord of the Powers, be with us. For in times of distress, we have to no other help but You. Lord of the Powers, have mercy on us.
Go to God in prayer today!


Fr. Stavros Akrotirianakis

Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015. The Prayer Team now has its own dedicated website! Fr. Stavros has produced multiple books, you can view here: https://amzn.to/3nVPY5M


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