Pray for the church and people of Sutherland Springs, Texas
In the wake of the shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas there will be no lack of explanation of the horror that took place that ordinary Sunday morning. Politicians will try to work things to their advantage, lobbyist will put in extra hours angling to gain favor and even many pastors will wax eloquent to get God off the hook for a tragedy that may never be understood on this side of heaven.
One thing is certain, the people of Sutherland Springs are hurting and we need to pray for them. We need to mourn with them even if we cannot be at their side. We need to ask the God of all comfort, compassion and mercy to spread His gracious wings over that congregation and cover them with the grace of our suffering Savior.
As a friend of mine recently said, when reacting to this tragedy, these people do not need the Jesus of sentiment but the Jesus of Scripture. It is only a Sovereign God who has gotten in the muck and mire of life that understands pain of this magnitude for He not merely feel for us but He has identified with us in every way as He went to the humiliation of the cross in order to ultimately defeat evil, suffering and death.
There are no easy answers for the people of Sutherland Springs. We need to pray that they know and experience the love of other believers just simply being with them. Right now the ministry of presence is critical. It is easy for Christians to feel overwhelmed and not know how to help those who experience this kind of tragedy. It is easy to just disappear for fear of not knowing what to say or what to do. Christians need to remember that they do not have to have all the answers and as a matter of fact they do not need any answers at all. They simply need to practice the ministry of presence. They need to be silent and just sit, hug, cry with them, serve with meals and pray for them with simple prayers of trusting Jesus who comforts the broken hearted. This is the ministry of presence. There is time for theological discussions later but right now the ministry of presence is what gives comfort.
There will be time later to remind them that evil, suffering and death are temporary and then we can help them cry out with David, “How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thought and every day have sorrow in my heart?” (Psalm 13:1-2). There will be time to have them keep reading a few verses more so they can eventually confess with King David, “But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing to the LORD, for he has been good to me.” (vv. 5-6).
There will be time to help them understand how God can turn this for His glory and their joy. They will need to understand that God does not exchange their grief with joy, but instead over time turns their grief into joy.
In order for this to happen we need to cling to Scripture. The sad fact is that in these times not many people will be speaking the truth of God’s word but instead giving the Jesus of sentiment and not the Jesus of Scripture. As the people of God we must cling to the word of God for that is our ground of hope. When tragedy strikes keep your head and heart in your ground of hope—the word of God.
My friend Brad sums it up well: “When tragedy strikes, the Church of Christ has more than sentiment and misty notions. We have a savior who is fit for the world as it is, broken and sinful. Jesus meets our need and walks with us in these tragedies out of his own sufficiency providing for us the grace that is needed and the security of an eternity in his presence. Though the specific question of “why?” for events such as Sutherland Springs may not be answered. The question of “who?” is, namely, Jesus, who is working all things out of their brokenness and fallen state into redemption for his glory.”
Jesus acts out of love in all things. He acts out of his abundance to meet our need. Christ is sufficient to give us grace in all things. This is the testimony of Scripture and this is the Jesus that we all need at times like this.
Pray for the families of these victims: Crystal Marie Holcombe 36, who was eight months pregnant; Carlin Brite “Billy Bob” Holcombe; Robert Scott Marshall, 56; Karen Sue Marshall, 56; Keith Allen Braden, 62; Tara E. McNulty, 33; Annabelle Renae Pomeroy, 14; Peggy Lynn Warden, 56; Dennis Neil Johnson Sr., 77; Sara Johns Johnson, 68; Lula Woicinski White, 71; Joann Lookingbill Ward, 30; Brooke Bryanne Ward, 5; Robert Michael Corrigan, 51; Shani Louise Corrigan, 51; Therese Sagan Rodriguez, 66; Ricardo Cardona Rodriguez, 64; Haley Krueger, 16; Emily Garcia, 7; Emily Rose Hill, 11; Gregory Lynn Hill, 13; Megan Gail Hill, 9; Marc Daniel Holcombe, 36; Noah Holcombe, 1; Karla Plain Holcombe, 58; and John Bryan Holcombe, 60.