Tonight, the City of Lights is reeling from the darkness of terror. French President Francois Hollande has closed his country’s borders and declared a state of emergency after what he calls “unprecedented terror attacks.” Six assaults have taken the lives of at least 153 victims.
At this hour, no one has claimed responsibility. However, officials believe the Islamic State is likely responsible, since the coordinated strategy used in the attacks is one of their hallmarks.
These attacks indicate that terrorism against Western targets is escalating. Consider three factors.
One: there was apparently no warning. Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, says he was not aware of chatter pointing to the Paris attacks beforehand. If our intelligence services were unable to detect a plot of this scope and scale, we are left to worry that other such attacks may be similarly planned and undetected.
Two: the group responsible wielded sophisticated, multinational capabilities. The six attacks were clearly coordinated, three occurring at the same time. Such organizational competence raises terror concerns for other European cities and America as well.
Three: the attacks were apparently in response to French activity against terrorist targets. U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter has praised France as a leader in the coalition fighting Islamic State militants in Syria. The attacks came five days before France’s only aircraft carrier, the Charles de Gaulle, sets sail for the Persian Gulf to participate in actions against ISIS. People associated with ISIS are celebrating the tragedy with the hashtags #ParisisBurning and #ParisIgnites. Not surprisingly, U.S. officials are tightening security at Boston, New York City, and Washington, D.C.
Tonight, Christians around the world are praying for Paris. We are trusting the Holy Spirit to supply our words (Romans 8:26) as we pray for the victims (2 Corinthians 1:3-4), asking God for grace (2 Cor. 9:8), peace (Philippians 4:6-7), wisdom for leaders (James 1:5), and justice for all (Amos 5:23).
Even if you don’t know the words to pray, know that your grief and compassion for the Paris victims speaks to the Father on their behalf. John Bunyan noted that in prayer it is better to have a heart without words than words without a heart.
Tonight may be dark. However, the God of the Bible redeems darkness. He used the imprisonment of Joseph in a dark pit to raise him up to the right hand of Pharaoh. He used a vast sea and great fish with Jonah to show him the depths of his love and grace. He used the death of his Son to bring life to all who trust him for salvation.
Darkness may rule the night, but the Morning Star still shines and the King still reigns.
Terry Anderson, a Christian journalist held hostage in Lebanon for seven years, wrote of his experience: “We come closest to God at our lowest moments. It’s easiest to hear God when you are stripped of pride and arrogance, when you have nothing to rely on except God. It’s pretty painful to get to that point, but when you do, God’s there.”
God is in Paris tonight. Let’s join him, on our knees.