“for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd,
and he will guide them to springs of the water of life,
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” -Revelation 7:17
Little did I know as we worshiped on November 5 that a tragedy was befalling fellow saints of God in Sutherland Springs, Texas. At Chapelwood UMC in Houston, we were gathering to worship God and to remember the saints who died this past year. First Baptist in Sutherland Springs was worshiping as well. This should have been a Sunday where the saints – living and dead – are united with one song of praise to the Lamb on the throne. Methodists and Baptists, Protestants and Catholics – the untold number of saints gathered around the throne singing, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.” (Revelation 7:12)
I have no words to speak or write that can help make sense of this awful tragedy. Watching the news doesn’t help at all. “It is a gun issue.” “It is a mental health issue.” “It is a sin issue.” My friends, evil never limits the places and spaces where it works. Evil will do anything it can to destroy life – to kill, steal, and destroy. The devil is at work and will always seek to introduce fear and doubt into the lives of people of faith. Evil will even work after the tragedy as we try to find some easy solution or explanation. It’s not easy. It never has been.
I have received quite a few emails asking ‘why’? I don’t have the answer. I took theology, psychology, and ethics in seminary and can articulate evil, sin, pain and suffering. But the theology doesn’t do much for me in this moment. I am more connected to the laments in the Psalms and the hoped for future in Revelation. It’s not that I am avoiding anything. It’s just that this seems to happen every week and words begin to echo into meaninglessness. I need words to help me name the pain.
Like in Psalm 6, “I am weary with my moaning; every night I flood my bed with tears; I drench my couch with my weeping. My eyes waste away because of grief; they grow weak because of all my foes. Depart from me, all you workers of evil, for the Lord has heard the sound of my weeping. The Lord has heard my supplication; the Lord accepts my prayer. All my enemies shall be ashamed and struck with terror; they shall turn back, and in a moment be put to shame.”
And Psalm 13, “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I bear pain in my soul, and have sorrow in my heart all day long? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me? Consider and answer me, O Lord! Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death, and my enemy will say, “I have prevailed”; my foes will rejoice because I am shaken. But I trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord because he has dealt bountifully with me.”
So, right now and am in sackcloth and ashes. I am weeping inside and out.
But there is something we can do. Christians will need to be ready to step up our discipleship if we want to see our world changed. We must lament…and they we must step forward. We must give up time to disciple and be discipled. We must give time to teach our teens and children. We must open the pathways of the Holy Spirit to work not just in us, but to expand the influence of Christ in the world.
Join me as we weep and cry out. Then join me as we step forward in faith to change the world.