Sunday, November 5, 2017 will go down in Texas history as the state’s deadliest single act of desperation to date. Twenty-six men, women and children were gunned down in the Sutherland Springs First Baptist Church. One desperate and confused soul, beguiled and deceived by the devil and his daemons, ended twenty-six lives, then added his own to complete the tragedy.
Now, outrage is the natural emotion after a tragic event like this. Outrage is a call to action. It is a combination of anger, fear, and concern plus a plea for one or someone to do something to remedy the situation. If this heinous act draws only a feeling of ambivalence, one has then given up: the problem is out of my hands, nothing I can do; it happens all the time now; it is OK as long as it does not personally affect me. Without some level of outrage, the important question of, “How do we prevent that from happening again?” is not asked and contemplated. A lack of shock and outrage condones other acts of violence, either as reprisals or other “copycat” type reactions.
Now, let us look closer at this emotion, “outrage”. There is good outrage and bad. It is easy, in a complex event such as this massacre, to be angry at things that one cannot control or understand. One also can, through one’s denial, look for and expect some “golden switch” to be flipped, instantly sending the world back to normal, back to the prior, more tranquil equilibrium. As the futility of the situation quickly deteriorates, as no solutions seem to immediately jump out of thin air, anger festers into despair. Despair then behaves like a cancer, to spread, like ripples in a pond, multiplying outward. Despair produces an environment incubating thoughts, justifying violence as a solution to one’s problems or to settle one’s scores.
What happened in Sutherland Springs cannot be legislated away either. There will be an outcry to ban this and ban that. These baby steps may make a dent, but we cannot rely on our legislators to make this problem go away, because they cannot. All the banning in the world does not stop the spread of despair, the history of depravity or abuse. Feelings of bigotry toward races, religions, or God Himself blankets this world that we live in and is not something that a new law or ban can fix.
Have you ever been to a ball game when, in the stands, a wave begins? You know, as the wave draws near, all the people in the section stand up, raise their hands and yell. The evil of anger and despair spreads like this wave – growing, getting louder with each section it envelopes – until it starts circling the stadium. The sad thing that has happened over the last three months, I bet I can count the number of days our flags have flown at full mast on the fingers of my two hands. The anger and despair wave has been, and is now, rippling and chugging along, building steam along the way.
But, you know, there is always that kill joy section in the stadium where no one stands up, killing the wave. We can be the person(s) that kill the wave of despair that seems to be rolling and picking up momentum of negativity, anger, revenge and hate. As in the wave at the stadium, to sustain its spreading, the people in each on coming section must participate in the action. If we turn our outrage into prayer, forgiveness and love, the wave of despair can be stopped in its tracks. I may not be able to solve the world’s problems myself, but one person can start the trend, a counter wave of goodness, that fans out to do battle with the wave of despair. It can happen. We cannot let the outrage of despair take over. As the church hymn begins, “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.” Again, no person is capable to rid the country of hate and violence themselves. If I take it upon myself to solve the world’s problems, I will only become overwhelmed, frustrated and make things worse. These situations must be given to God in prayer, not to man, to resolve for us. It is only with our prayer where we individually and collectively gain strength and peace of heart from God to do His will to bring about salvation.
So what good is prayer? I pray all the time and nothing happens, right? It seems that way. God gives us what we need. Our prayers may not materialize the white knight that drives all hate and despair away. He may just soften my heart to allow peace to happen within my own heart. The start of a peace wave. Amen.
 “Let There Be Peace On Earth”, Jill Jackson-Miller and Sy Miller, 1955