B’s game was finished and as we were leaving, I looked through the glass from the gym into the weight room and something caught my eye. What was the ticker reading beneath the images on CNN? Church shooting…Sutherland Springs…Texas…24 dead…many more wounded…
I stood there, rooted to the spot, hand over my mouth. Tears rolled down my face. I texted my Boss Lady, asking if she is seeing the report. “Yep.” *sad face with tear
Transfixed, thinking about my own beloved church, we drive home. More information pours from the TV at home and I began to cry in earnest. The pastor’s daughter, eight members of one family, ages 5-72 years old, a pregnant woman, 4% of the little town…dead…at 11AM service…
This sucked the joy right out of me. This morning as my pastor was teaching second service about 1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11 “Hope Beyond the Grave” and the Coming of the Lord, an entire church body was experiencing it firsthand 958 miles southwest of us.
And yet, it felt so much closer, didn’t it? Too close for comfort.
We had to get moving, back to church for ordinations where my husband, as an elder along with the rest of the eldership and pastors, would lay hands on two young men who are dedicating themselves to a lifetime of ministry.
Except I just couldn’t. There was too much grief in my heart.
Maybe I was in shock. Thinking how devastating this is, how someone would enter any place of worship in America and kill people who are worshiping Jesus, I couldn’t comprehend it. And I am horrified that it happened in “Little Town Nowhere” where people leave their houses unlocked and are just trying to live quiet lives and love their neighbors.
What makes it so crazy is that WE live in “Little Town Nowhere” and most of our multisite campuses here in the Midwest are, too. If it could happen there, it could happen in our church. That’s what makes it so terrifying and scary.
These are real families who are picking up the all-too-real pieces of their shattered lives this week. We grieve with them–they ARE us as the Church and when one part of the Body suffers, every part suffers with it. (1 Corinthians 12:26)
As I parked the car, I went into the church and was greeted by many of our amazing campus pastors. Honestly, I couldn’t even smile politely or reply back–I was thinking about the young man who walked into First Baptist Church and opened fire on the people of God. We know what possesses men to do such evil like this, and yet, we still cannot fathom the depth of the delusion and the hatred that the enemy of our souls has for God’s children.
The ordination celebration began with a word from the pastor followed by at time of praising and worshiping God. It was there I felt the shock melt away, the tears fall furiously, the grief recede as we joined together in song.
God was magnified–His Name lifted high–and my burden of grief lightened. As we listened to the devotion of two young men and their wives to the Bride of Christ, to ensuring its longevity, to serving Christ’s Kingdom, my hope began to rise as if on the wings of dawn.
For as many Christ-followers who are killed without reason, there will be more to take their place…God will reinforce His ranks! Take heart! Even Jesus said that though one kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. (John 12:24) He said this in reference to His own death. But will this awful tragedy be what strengthens and reinforces the conviction of the American Church to keep Her reaching the Lost?
There will be much discussion about gun control and mental health. There may even be discussion about persecution and martyrdom. The President weighed in from Japan. (I wonder what the Japanese and the rest of the world are thinking about the violence in our country…with Las Vegas, Manhattan and now, Sutherland Springs.) The World will respond to the event, but how can we respond to the World and the events of Sunday?
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:9-21)
Lord, please help me to see “Jesus in Everything,” especially in tragedy.