Here’s my honesty today: I’m not even sure what to say or what to do. This is too much. It’s too much. My heart is numb and it’s broken and it’s in disbelief. If this were an isolated incident, it would be too much in and of itself. But it’s not an isolated incident. Today is in a long line of unbelievable heartbreak, division, controversy, pain, brokenness. This world has gone crazy. Natural disaster, threats of nuclear war and leaders of nations casually throwing out nuclear annihilation as if it’s normal operation in the world, shouting matches over what it means to have freedom, shootings at churches, and now this. Last week my kids had “emergency preparedness drills” at school, on Sunday we had to share with our leaders in our kids ministry where to take the children in the case of an active shooter in our building, and everybody is supposed to act like this is normal? What in the world is going on?
In the Old Testament book of Psalms, David cries out to God, “How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?” and “Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help.”
Those words have echoed in my heart in increasing measure over the past few weeks, and today there is no silencing them. How long, Lord? How long will things like this persist? Trouble is near, it’s all around us, and I’m wondering if there’s anyone around to help.
What do you do when the world has gone crazy?
Here are some things that I’ll do today:
1) Pray. I’m not talking about polite prayers or polished prayers or formulaic prayers. In a time like this, my prayers are raw, they’re honest, they’re even angry. If I’ve learned anything from reading things like Psalm 13 and Psalm 22, it’s that God can handle my honest prayers. My “What the hell is going on?” and “Where are you?” prayers. Sometimes prayer is simple and joy-filled and polite and quiet, and sometimes it’s unfiltered and from the gut and loud. I believe that God appreciates both and wants our honest, unfiltered prayers. And so on a day like today, I don’t hold back in what I pray.
2) Remember that Jesus wept. Followers of Jesus claim that Jesus is the King of the World. The shortest (and therefore most memorable) verse in the Bible is, “Jesus wept.” What’s it mean to have a weeping savior? Shouldn’t the king of the world be strong and brave and battle-ready? You can’t set up dominion over the world and be a cryer, can you? What’s it mean that we follow a crying king?
It means that Jesus is deeply connected to us as people. It means that he’s not immune to what it means to be human. It means that he cares deeply when we’re hurting. It means he’s with us in the struggle. It means that he’s affected by what happens in the world and isn’t separated from that. He doesn’t sit on a throne in a tower far removed from the everyday pain and struggle and heartache and fear that we face as human beings. He doesn’t turn his back and pretend everything’s ok in the face of tragedy.
We have a weeping Messiah, a crying savior, a God who is with us in the peaks and valleys of our lives, a God who sees and feels and responds.
In times of tragedy, I do not believe that this was “all part of God’s plan” or that “everything happens for a reason.” There are many reasons for a mass shooting, but I don’t believe that God’s plan is one of them. Things like this are the result of human sin and brokenness and stubbornness and evil, and I believe that God’s heart is broken with our hearts today. Jesus wept, and I believe that today he’s weeping with us over this.
3) Commit to the work of the Church. What’s happened today and over the past several weeks is a sign that what we do together as the church is urgent and it’s important. In fact, I would say that there’s nothing more important. We don’t just gather for fun. We don’t just get together as a club on Sundays. There’s no such thing as a sedentary church or an inwardly focused church – the church of Jesus is a church that’s intent on going to reach and serve our neighbors with the love of Jesus.
The unconditional love of Jesus is a powerful force and it could wreak havoc on the world as we know it if we would unleash it in our homes and neighborhoods and communities. It’s been said that the local church is the hope of the world. When people are hurting, we have the chance to offer healing. When people are broken, we are able to offer restoration. When people are isolated and alone, we can offer connection.
We have one shot at this life, and I’m more and more convinced that what we do matters. How we love people matters. How we treat people matters. How we speak about people matters. Every word we say to somebody or about somebody makes an impact. Every small act of service in the name of God’s love makes a difference. Humility matters. Choosing to be with people matters. Forgiving our enemies matters. Seeking the good of all the people, not just the people who agree with us, matters. The world needs the love of Jesus on display now more than ever.
Pray. Honest, authentic, real, raw, unfiltered prayers.
Remember that God is with us in the struggle, weeping with us, walking alongside us, giving us the grace we need to move forward.
Be the church, the real church, the church that unleashes unconditional love and forgiveness and mercy and grace and healing on a hurting and broken world.
“How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me. Look on me and answer, Lord my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death, and my enemy will say, ‘I have overcome him,’ and my foes will rejoice when I fall. But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing the Lord’s praise, for he has been good to me.” Psalm 13.