Thirteen people are dead as a result of the latest American tragedy. Now, hundreds of loved ones are grieving. And an entire nation is grieving too.
You can tell a lot about people by how they grieve.
Take, for example, Monday night’s game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Cincinnati Bengals.
Before the game started, even before the national anthem was sung, a solemn voice came over the stadium’s intercom. Those in attendance were asked to stand. Stand and reflect. Stand and think about the victims of the mass shooting that had taken place earlier that day.
Maybe I’m just missing something. But what exactly is the point of reflecting? And how are families of victims benefited by our thoughts?
I get it. We’re not a Christian nation. Maybe we never were. That’s a debate for another time. But it’s not like I expected the public address announcer to begin a church service.
“And now, please rise as A.J. Green reads a selection from C.S. Lewis’ A Grief Observed while your Bengal cheerleaders do a creative movement routine to It Is Well with My Soul.”
But some cliches, no matter how ingrained they are in our vernacular, still make no sense. At best, they serve as ugly reminders of the void left when a culture has tried its best to do away with anything having to do with God.
I always have people telling me that they are praying for me. Before I preached last Sunday, I’m guessing that ten or fifteen people told me that they were praying for me. It did me a lot of good to know that a fellow Christian was going before the Creator of the universe on my behalf. And it encourages me to know that prayer is an action that involves each member of the Trinity, working for my ultimate good.
The Father hears me and knows what I need before I even approach him.
“And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” Matthew 6:7-8 (ESV)
Jesus, the Son, actually prays on my behalf. As nice as it is to know that friends are praying for me, I am overwhelmed that God’s Son takes my name and needs to the Father as he sees fit.
“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” Luke 22:31-32 (ESV)
Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Romans 8:34 (ESV)
And when we pray, the Holy Spirit takes our weak efforts to the Father, laying them before him with love and passion that words cannot describe.
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. Romans 8:26 (ESV)
With all that in mind, it seems a little silly to “send out my thoughts to the families.” It’s sort of like giving someone last week’s losing lottery ticket. Thanks for nothing.
So the next time something bad happens, whatever you do, don’t think about the victims. Pray for them. It really does work (Matthew 7:7-11).
And if something bad happens to you, don’t go nuts when someone says that they are, “thinking about you” or “sending positive energy your way.” I’m sure that the people mean well.
But just remember that the God who created you is doing more than thinking about you.
He is listening to you.
He is working on your behalf.
He is praying for you.