It has happened again. A church shooting. An act of evil in a place of holiness. The disgust, grief, and outrage are too familiar. It has happened before. O God, please let this be the last time.
The community of Sutherland Springs, Texas knows the touch of evil; they know a depth of anguish few of us can fathom. Those in Christ also know God’s presence as their singular hope; the only thing that can penetrate the numbness. “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18) Let’s pray this over the people.
The families of this tiny Texas town will rally. They will hold each other up as tears take the place of words they cannot find for explaining a disaster beyond comprehension. I think about this poor pastor—I do not know him—but I know pastors. I think about the swirling pain and grief that must dominate his heart today. His daughter is among the dead. His guest preacher, taking his place on Sunday, is among the dead. His sheep—God’s people under his shepherding—were attacked while he was out of town. I think about his soul today. Thousands of his own sermons preached are the bedrock of his practical faith. Experiences of comforting other families now become part of a larger moment—comforting the congregation, the city, the nation, and even the world. It is not all on his shoulders, but today he might feel like it. Pray for Frank Pomeroy, pastor of First Baptist Church. Pray for his wife, Sherri Pomeroy. Many will look to them as helpers and healers this week, but let’s remember that they are also victims.
Something is wrong with how people process life’s pain. The massacre at Sutherland Springs was an act of rage—the killer believed people needed to pay for what was not right in his world. We would describe the victims as innocent. He would describe them as somehow responsible. How broken does one have to be in order to exact this punishment on strangers young and old…in a church? A sanctuary does not guarantee sanctuary anymore. Churches must now take reasonable safety precautions, discussing active shooter protocols for worship gatherings and classroom areas.
The answers in this tragic moment are not new. Our response is the same as when we last lost our collective breath at the news of an evil event. We hope in God, we long for heaven, we comfort the grieving, we announce the Gospel, and we pray. The old truth is still today’s truth. Broken people need Jesus. Some, like the Gerasene demoniac, need deliverance. Some, like Nicodemus, need truth and explanation. Some, like the woman at the well, need grace and a revelation. And others, like Saul of Tarsus, need to be stopped and redirected. Jesus is the difference in it all. May God give us compassion and courage for reaching out and speaking-up to individuals who appear at a breaking point —brimming with pain and rage, potentially wanting others to pay for what is wrong in their world. If you sense something, say something.
Many in Sutherland Springs and around our nation will go to church this weekend for reasons they don’t quite understand. Some will go to support. Others will go because this brush with evil served as a wake-up call for giving attention to things eternal. Maybe some will meet Jesus. That would be a good prayer for this coming weekend. Let’s pray for the Holy Spirit to bring an awakening to our bewildered culture. Could terrible days usher in true revival?
The search for a motive or a reason “why” will not satisfy. There is no explanation that will lead us to understanding or comfort. Our comfort comes in the hope of heaven and in the certainty of God’s sovereignty. Evil will not win.
In these thoughts, I have been encouraged by the simple beauty of Matt Redman’s new song, One Day. The lyrics are anchored in hope-filled theology. At the same time they manage to wrap themselves around the hurting heart. Click these links to find the song on Spotify or Itunes and give it a listen. Come to a complete stop and let the song provide comfort and perspective.
Our “one day” will come. Until then, Jesus is still our hope for endurance through dark valleys and for broken people made whole.
“He who testifies to these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.” (Revelation 22:20)
Come quickly, Lord Jesus. Come quickly.