In the aftermath of the mass shooting at Sutherland Springs Baptist Church, there’s been plenty of blame and finger-pointing. There’s also been something else: People mocking those praying for the situation.
This derisive attitude toward prayer is nothing new, but it may stir up doubts as to the effectiveness of prayer or the power of God. If these thoughts are troubling you, consider the following and be encouraged:
Death is not the end
The early Christians were able to face death and torture with peace because of their unshakeable confidence in eternal life. In their minds, life was a brief journey; the real joy awaited them in heaven. To the world, death is the end; to the Christian, death is the beginning of better things.
Faith is tested most when confronted by the weightiness of life and death. As C.S. Lewis wrote in A Grief Observed,
“You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life and death to you. It is easy to say you believe a rope to be strong and sound as long as you are merely using it to cord a box. But suppose you had to hang by that rope over a precipice. Wouldn’t you then first discover how much you really trusted it?”
We either have faith in God’s promises or we do not trust them at all. To the world, our faith is insanity. They draw comfort from our suffering as though it validates their lack of faith. To them, the suffering of a Christian is proof of God’s weakness and prayer’s ineffectiveness. To us, it is a reminder that this earth is not paradise and better things await us in heaven. When we remain steadfast in our suffering, it is a witness to the world of the power of Christ within us. It is in the darkness that the light of Christ has the opportunity to shine most brightly.
To us, it is a reminder that this earth is not paradise and better things await us in heaven.
Paul, in his letter to the Thessalonians, said,
“Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him…For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words.”
Death causes grief to us who remain, but to the Christian who has passed on, it is relief from all the suffering of this earth. We never know the when or how or why, but if we cling to God’s hand in faith, we can face death with peaceful assurance.
Compassion is born out of prayer
In spite of what the world thinks, we should take this tragedy to the throne of God in prayer. Ask the Lord to enfold them in comfort, make provision for their needs, and strengthen them for the days ahead. In addition to these requests, ask the Lord to open doors of opportunity for you to help the grieving. After you pray, be on the lookout for these opportunities.
My fellow TheCourage contributor, Ashleigh Slater, recently released her book, Braving Sorrow Together, in which she shares how we can be supportive of one another through our grief and pain. What our fellow believers need at this moment are those who will help them through this pain. We might not be able to go to East Texas and assist, but there are other things we can do—including prayer.
Since I have not lost a loved one in this shooting, I can analyze it with detached rationality, but I cannot say what my reaction would be if I were the one grieving. The people of Sutherland Springs are experiencing razor-sharp grief which demands a better balm than words or logic. They need hugs, cards of sympathy, financial support for funeral costs, and counseling to deal with this traumatic loss in a healthy way.
Prayer is effective
“Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise…Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” (James 5.13-16)
Prayers are effective. The world will encourage you to give up on prayer because they do not believe in God or His power. Will you listen to people who put their confidence in themselves or will you listen to our Mighty God who has the power to do more than we ask or imagine? God is more than able to make beauty from these ashes.
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.” (1 Peter 5.6-9)
Keep on praying. Keep on trusting. Keep on working.
Elihu Anderson is a surviving California native currently thriving in West Texas. When she isn’t writing for Elihu’s Corner, she is teaching, researching, walking, and book-worming with a cup of chai. Visit Elihu at elihuscorner.com