I’d heard about the shooting, how could I not have? And yes, I cared, but when you hear about a new shooting every weekend, how much of your heart can you really let into the situation?
Often when I hear about a new shooting, I take in the details, sit stunned in a mixture of horror and shock, and eventually let it fade as work or school drags on.
Sunday when I heard about the shooting in Sutherland Springs, I was again shocked. And again, I kind of let it fade. Until I went to small group and we talked about it. As my small group leader spoke and invited us to remember and pray for the situation and the state of our country, I was overwhelmed.
It came slowly, not like a crashing wave, more like the tide coming in slowly over your legs. My face began to fall, my gaze focusing in on some thread in the carpet in front of me. An unexplainable weight fell on my heart but my body became light, almost floating. My lip began to quiver, and tears threatened to spill over my eyelids.
Then as worship started, they broke out. First the tears gently streamed down my face as I prayed for the victims of the shooting and their families, then they began to flood.
It was as if God allowed me to feel the pain of those affected by the atrocity, even if only on a minor scale. And it broke me.
I tried to stay calm and control my weeping, but I quickly realized that would be impossible. I left the room, seeking some privacy on the other side of the paper-thin wall. There on the floor at the end of the hallway, I let the gates open.
Tears poured out of my eyes uncontrollably and I sobbed, loudly. My weeping became so violent I began to scream. I sat in this state for easily ten minutes. Broken, mourning, confused.
It was as if, in that moment, God let me mourn with the people of Sutherland Springs, a people I didn’t know. But God did, and for some reason he wanted me to care about them at least a fraction as much as he did.
After I began to calm, I was left with questions.
“Why is the world like this?”
“Why do these things happen?”
“What am I supposed to do for these people?”
“Why did you let me in on this?”
And then the big one hit: “How am I supposed to share of a good, loving, caring God when people have been through this? When this has become a normal thing? I know what I believe and why I believe it, but how do I get through to those who don’t have that assurance and then experience this?”
I felt hopeless, and I think that’s okay, at least for a moment. The thing is, we can know all the right things to say, all the promises to utter to a broken person, and while that’s good, sometimes it’s not what’s needed.
Sometimes people need to know it’s okay to feel like their world was just shattered. Sometimes they need to know you’re not interested in just fixing their problem and sending them on their way, but that you love them enough to mourn with them and pick them up when they’re ready.
I believe that’s what God let me do that night, to mourn with the thousands of people who have been affected by the mass shootings happening so frequently lately. To not need a solution to the many questions right away, but to let the hopelessness be real for a minute.
To feel the weight of the situation and the real life affect it has on so many.
When these things don’t personally affect us, it’s easy to shrug it off, not because we don’t care, but because we couldn’t possibly understand the extent of the situation. I think God wanted me to understand, at least a little bit better.
But now what? What can I do? What’s the answer? How does a person like me have any effect on a situation so horrible and big?
Honestly, I don’t have a great answer for this. But here’s what I know: these acts are a violation of love. So how else can I battle it but to love?
Sorrow is real. Hopelessness is real. Fear is real. We cannot deny these things with quick answers and all the right things to say. We have to accept them.
But we don’t have to live in them. And this, I believe, is all I can really do right now. Live the truth that opposes these lies.
Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal, kill, and destroy. I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10).
Don’t tune this out because it’s “cliché.” Hear that. The thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy. He comes to steal our joy, kill our hope, and destroy our hearts.
He loves what’s going on and he wants us to live in it.
But Jesus came that we might have life to the full. He came to steal back our joy, renew our hope, and rebuild our hearts. I don’t know how. I don’t know how he does it. But I know that he does because I have seen him do it time and time again in my life and the lives of those around me.
And in the face of hopelessness, I choose this truth.
So I mourn, over and over, because this world is broken.
And I pick my head up, because I no longer belong to this world.
And I smile, because spreading this love is the only thing that will heal.
By: Victoria Rinear