“You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” (Psalm 16:11)
On Oct. 24, an armed intruder entered my daughter’s high school and subsequently killed a student and a teacher. It goes without saying that, for everyone involved or affected by that incident, it was one of the most terrifying moments of life.
One of the unsettling things that I learned following the incident was that staff and students regularly trained in preparation for such an event. Preparing for an active shooter was something that was foreign to me when I was in high school.
Unfortunately, mass shootings and other acts of violence have become an ordinary experience in our world. Some might say that this upward trend in violence epitomizes the “ordinariness of suffering,” the fact that violent things regularly occur in the world.
Psalm 16 reminds us that suffering never has to become ordinary. The effects of suffering can be countered by focusing on the “joy of the ordinary,” recognizing and appreciating all the simple things that we experience on a regular basis that we may take for granted.
Things like the fact that I am blessed to wake up to my family every day, that I know I will have access to clean water and food, clothing, shelter, family, friends, and so many other things that I truly do not need but just enjoy having. In acknowledging the ordinary joys of life, we intentionally move our view from what may occasionally go wrong to what regularly goes right in life.
I did not need a shooter to enter my daughter’s school for me to know that I love her or for me to regularly show her affection. I do that every day — but you can be assured that I hugged her a little more tightly the moment I got close to her after the incident.
May God grant each of us a spirit of gratitude for the simplest things in life that have been made available to all of us through Jesus, the One whose simple birth represented the fulfillment of God’s intricate and unending love for all humanity and creation.
Terrell Carter, D.Min, is a pastor, seminary and university professor, and nonprofit executive. His latest book is Family Feuds: Forgotten Bible Rivalries and What the Church Can Relearn about Reconciliation.