(RNS) Life is difficult. It can knock you down. Sometimes, an entire nation gets knocked down.

First it was Boston. Some mad man (or men) lays waste to one of America’s most hallowed sporting events — the Boston Marathon. Sidewalks that should have been covered with confetti were covered in blood.

Then it was the quintessential small Texas town of West. Populated by hearty Czech immigrants, folks in West worked hard in their shops, bakeries and fertilizer plant until the plant exploded. A magnitude-2.1 on the Richter scale, witnesses compared it to a nuclear bomb. Dozens are feared dead.

American flag image courtesy Shutterstock (http://shutr.bz/15spvPd)

American flag image courtesy Shutterstock (http://shutr.bz/15spvPd)

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In the nation’s capital, we had the bitter realization that something is broken that will not be easily repaired. A common-sense proposal that emerged from the Newtown, Conn., tragedy, background checks to prevent convicted felons and the seriously mentally ill from purchasing guns online or at gun shows, fell prey to Washington gridlock. None of the Newtown proposals — the ban on assault weapons, limits on the number of bullets a gun can hold or expanded background checks — could garner the 60 votes necessary to overcome a Senate filibuster.

Finally, there were the ricin-laced letters sent to a Republican senator and the president.

Taken together, it was a bruising week for a nation wearied by war and nagged by chronic unemployment.

Yet Americans are people of faith. As millions repair to their churches, synagogues, mosques and temples this weekend for spiritual succor, some will quote a familiar passage from the Bible: “All things work together for good to them that love God and are called according to his purpose.” Really?

Tell that to the Richard family who lost their 8-year-old son in the new Boston Massacre, or to the families of the half-dozen volunteer firefighters who, it increasingly appears, gave their lives trying to save the town of West.

Fortunately, the King James translators got it wrong. No surprise. They had only a dozen or so ancient manuscripts to work from. Today’s translators have more than 5,000. Examine St. Paul’s letter to the Romans in its original Greek, and you’ll discover something different. “God works in all things for good,” said St. Paul, even in the midst of tragedy. Especially in the midst of tragedy.

I saw it this week. Marathon runners crossing the finish line exhausted yet continuing to run miles to the nearest hospital to donate blood. Neighbors in West, Texas, taking in neighbors, sharing food, clothing, whatever. Just ordinary citizens acting like the heroes we all aspire to be.

America has had a jarring week. But the small acts of her people should give us hope. And the quiet assurance that better days lie ahead.

(Oliver Thomas is the author of “10 Things Your Minister Wants to Tell You.” This column originally appeared in USA Today.)


  1. Donald Kosloff

    In your commentary you confused things that actually went wrong with things that you think went wrong based on your political bias. That is a serious error when you use God to justify your political bias. For example, you ignorantly state that the absence of a so-called “assault weapons” ban is wrong. Yet there is not a shred of evidence to justify your claim. Even some politicians and others who support such a ban admit that.

  2. Betty Morin-Griffin

    The “familiar passage from the Bible” used in your article of Friday, 4/19/13, is Romans 8:28 – often taken out of context by those who desire to discredit the Scriptures. Romans 8:28, taken in context, is the follow-up result to vs. 26-27 of the same chapter. The actual lead-in is vs. 18 where Paul is comparing the suffering of this present age to the glory that awaits those who are in Christ Jesus. Vs. 26-27 point out that we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit of God intercedes for us in prayer according to the will of God. When the perfect will of God is prayed, we can expect vs. 28. The problem is that most of us do not pray … and if and when we do, we pray our own self-centered prayers and never ask God about His good will for us. The evil that is presently raping our world from Benghazi to Afghanistan to Newtown to Boston to Texas and multiple regions beyond, is the horrible by-product of man’s open rebellion against God as noted by C. S. Lewis in the last century. What if our world changed from “rebellion” against God to “surrender” to God – what a radical idea! And one what would surely work! And by the way, that old King James version of the Bible … it has been read by millions … and the reading of it has brought many people to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, the Lord, the unique Son of God, and the only Savior of the world.

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