FIRST-PERSON: The tears of America
SPRINGDALE, Ark. (BP) -- "You keep track of all my sorrows," Scripture says in Psalm 56:8 (New Living Translation). "You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book."
Tears are flowing from the eyes of America. The deep grief and sorrow we feel as a nation is incomparable to the loss experienced by the families who are burying one of the 20 children or one of the six educators who died in the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., on Friday, Dec. 14.
Even more than we count our money, God keeps track of our sorrows. Our sovereign God knows in detail the losses we feel and the overwhelming sorrow we experience. Our tears do not roll down our face alone, but are accompanied with prayers appealing for peace from God. God stores our prayers and our tears in His unlimited bottle. Our tearful response in defining moments such as the massacre in Connecticut is remembered by the Lord. When God sees these moments and our tears, He thinks about us.
As our hearts are moved and our tears flow, here are a few thoughts for consideration:
On personal grief
-- Grief is unbearable for the families who will bury their dead. In reality, as long as they are on this earth, grief will exist.
-- Unless one has ever lost a child, they cannot relate. Whether it be like my friends, Buster and Martha Pray in northwest Arkansas who lost their 30-year-old son Andrew in a tragic accident on the day before Thanksgiving or whether it be the parent of one of the educators or one of the innocent children in Connecticut, their community is one that none of them would have ever joined voluntarily. This community shares one major common denominator, the loss of a child. Unless we have experienced this, we cannot pretend to know the depths of their loss and sorrow.
-- As a nation, we need to begin to connect the dots. When the killing of the unborn is acceptable and the deplorable abuse of children is rampant, THEN the destruction of innocent children will more likely occur repeatedly. The present American generation needs to develop a much more healthy commitment to human life and the dignity of all human beings. Until we do, the value of human life to some will be minimal to nonexistent.
-- While gun control may not be the ultimate answer to the threatening epidemic of mass murders in our nation, I personally hope some changes can be made. I am not an authority on this issue, but I am one American who is highly concerned with the path we are on. Surely, something can be done.
-- As a nation, we have created a culture that has become so tolerant of excessive violence in movies, on television and in video games that our children and students have become desensitized. Until we make some serious changes in our culture to become friendlier to safety and life than violence and death, these horrific acts of violence will continue to happen.
-- Families in our nation need to know that productive help is on the way for the members of their family who may be dealing with some level of mental illness. The help must not only come from the government, but from private companies and churches that step up with support for families. We should all care about mental health not just to prevent violence, but also because those who suffer are human beings who need help and support.
On the church
For 36 years I have served as the lead pastor of local churches, the last 26 years serving in the same church. My church and the churches of America need to be awakened by the tears of America.
We need to consider the following:
-- The church must learn to weep with those who weep. Our nation is weeping. We need to be like the Lord who stores the tears of those who grieve. We need to point people to the Lord, who remembers the deepest moments of our trouble and pain.
-- The church must be at its greatest in crises like these. If we are, then the testimony of our Lord, His name and His church will prosper and the Gospel will travel on the relational tracks necessary in order for it to advance.
-- The church must plan for possible crises like this, especially in this day when the church is coming more under the persecuting hand of Satan and society. Awareness, alertness and action must become words in our vocabulary, not only regarding the advance of the Gospel but also for the safety of our own children.
-- The church must remind the powers in Washington, D.C., that on the days and evenings following the horrific tragedy at the Sandy Hook Elementary School, people did not go to the buildings of government for comfort, strength, community and peace. No, they went to houses of worship, in gatherings of community called churches and synagogues. It was in these settings of worship that they have found comfort, strength, community and peace. Keeping this in mind, discussion should immediately cease related to moderating or terminating tax benefits given to people for supporting their houses of faith that rise up to help in times like these.
-- The church must step up and take action to care for special needs children and youth as well as their families. We have learned again and again that their islands of isolationism do not end well. They need community. We, the church, must somehow go the extra mile and create ministries that will rise up to care for those with special needs. They need help. Their families need encouragement and, just like anyone else, they need the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
-- The church must be faithful to our highest and greatest message, the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the singular and most absolute answer to the problem of sin.
Yes, all sin.
As the tears of America flow, the church needs to weep. While we weep, we need to rise up in God's power, knowing the Lord alone is our strength. As our own tears flow, we need to pray for those who are most deeply grieved and for those who lead us in our great nation called America. As hearts are softened and tears flow, optimism is rising within me again that, as Americans, our greatest days are ahead of us.
Yes, when the tears flow, our sovereign God keeps track of all of our sorrows with great detail. He collects all of our tears in His bottle. He remembers us. He remembers you.
Ronnie Floyd is senior pastor of Cross Church (www.crosschurch.com) in northwest Arkansas, with campuses in Springdale, Pinnacle Hills and Fayetteville, and the author of "Our Last Great Hope" (2011). Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).