Digging deeper into grace

I ache inside over what has been happening in our nation—that someone walked into a church and massacred people (in Sutherland Springs and in Charleston), that someone walked into a school and massacred children (in Sandy Hook and in Columbine), that someone massacred people at a concert in Las Vegas, and a nightclub in Orlando, and a WalMart in Colorado, and that many other senseless shootings have taken the lives of people across our nation.

In the midst of my agony over these horrors, I turn to Psalm 130, which begins with a cry of distress: “Out of the depths I cry to You, O Lord; O Lord, hear my voice. Let Your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy.”

This is a psalm that gives voice to the pain and disgust we feel over the ugliness that surrounds us—pain and disgust that must not be ignored or denied or minimized.
In his description of the opening lines of this psalm, Eugene Peterson writes, “By setting the anguish out in the open and voicing it as a prayer, the psalm gives dignity to our suffering. It does not look on suffering as something slightly embarrassing which must be hushed up and locked in a closet…. And it doesn’t treat it as a puzzle that must be explained, and therefore turn it over to theologians or philosophers to work out an answer.

Suffering is set squarely, openly, passionately before God. It is acknowledged and expressed. It is described and lived.”

This psalm helps me to pour out the pain and sorrow in my heart, and to pray for those who are grieving over loved ones they have lost.

But because of what has happened to so many people in our country, and because I don’t want it to happen to people I care about, something more must be done.

James 2:15-16 states, “If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,’ and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?” I wonder whether James might exhort us today, “If you see brothers and sisters massacred, and you say to them (or to their loved ones), ‘My prayers are with you,’ but do nothing to stop the repetitions of this senseless violence, what use is that?”

We are the only nation in the world where lone gunmen bring about such massive death and destruction in schools and churches and stores and nightclubs and concerts.

Something is wrong here! We must not ignore or deny or minimize or give lip service to such heartbreak and evil in our land.

I am not so bold as to set forth a solution to this evil in our land. But I am bold enough to say that we as a nation must talk with each other and listen to one another so that we might work together to address these problems because each person whose life has been snuffed out in these shootings is precious in the heart of God.■

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Tom Tripp is the Pastor at the First Presbyterian Church of Colusa. Pastor Tripp can be reached by e-mail at: tomtripp@frontiernet.net