Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Why Sutherland Springs Still Needs Our Prayers


I've been home less than two weeks, and am still reeling from the effort of processing all that's happened since my return. I finally noticed the flag at half-staff and, for a millisecond, I thought it was for Sam. I know it wasn't sensible to think that an entire country shared my grief, but that's how grief works. It absorbs us and permeates every pore of our being.

The flag wasn't lowered in memory of Sam, of course. It was lowered because of the dozens of people who were tragically killed in the Sutherland Springs church shooting a few days before I returned.  

My church held a special service Sunday evening to pray for the town, the church, the families affected. I'm sorry to say that I stayed home because I didn't think I could spend one more minute grieving loss. 

Today, I'm rethinking that decision. I'm praying for comfort and healing for those believers who went to church expecting to see people they loved, hear lessons of faith that strengthened them for the week ahead, pray for those in need, worship the God they served, and go home to eat a nice Sunday lunch afterward. 

Instead, they saw people they loved gunned down, bleeding, and dying before their eyes. They were the ones in need of prayer. They were abruptly immersed in devastation that rocked their world and tried their faith. I doubt anyone felt like eating Sunday dinner after that tragic service. 

Their grief slammed into them with a barrage of bullets. The noise of gunshots, the smell of gunpowder, the scent of blood, will linger for a long time. They'll jump when they hear a loud noise. There'll be reminders all around them, and it will bring their grief rushing in like a flood when they least expect it. 

Trauma-induced grief is pervasive, gnawing, hard. The temptation will be to set aside the grief so they can move on, but that risks letting it fester and grow into an abscess of bitterness. The other temptation will be to hold the grief and let it control the future. Neither option brings freedom.

I'm praying for the people of Sutherland Springs, that the peace of God that passes all understanding will fill their hearts and their lives, that the perseverance of Christ Himself will guide them through the next weeks and months, that the love of Christ will still flow from them like a river of living water, that the grace of Christ will be extended by them to all who bungle their condolences and say thoughtless, unkind things. I'm praying that they will choose forgiveness, not because their attacker needs it, but because they and their children do. 

I'm praying that the body of Christ will surround them with help, and love, and hope and that they'll allow them to draw close and carry their burdens for a while.

By now, the church has been cleaned, the funerals have been held, paperwork has been filed. Life has begun to go on again, but the horror they've experienced will take a while to process. It won't be "over" soon.

The prayers of a nation sustained them during those first few days, but what about now? Are we still praying? They'll need our faithful prayers more than ever as the days pass and the memories of the news fade from our consciousness, but not from theirs. 

Even from a distance, we can be a part of their healing. How? Through prayer. Scripture tells us that our prayers are powerful and precious to God. Today, let's lift up the people of Sutherland Springs, even if we've prayed for them before, and ask God to see them through. 

". . . the prayer of the upright is His delight." Proverbs 15:8 
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In case you missed the last post, here's the link: Thanking God and Thanking You

If you're looking for an advent devotional, check out my book The Road to Bethlehem: An Advent Prayer and Devotional Guide, available on Amazon.