NOTE: Thank you to Dr. Ryan Denison for writing today’sDaily Article. He is the Denison Forum Senior Editor for Theology and has written more than four hundred articles for the Denison Forum.
At least thirty-one people were injured, ranging from ages eight to eighty-five, and six have died after a gunman opened fire on a crowd gathered for a Fourth of July parade in Highland Park, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. Though it took well into Monday evening, police have arrested the man believed responsible for the attack. It marks the 313th mass shooting of the year and is among the deadliest so far.
The details are predictably horrible. Stories of children hiding in a dumpster, parents frantically searching for kids that got lost in the frenzy, and families making the trip to identify the bodies of loved ones they’ve now seen for the last time this side of heaven.
Initially, most thought the gunfire was just fireworks and stood looking to the sky for the bright lights of a celebration while the bullets rained down from the roof of a nearby building. As the horror that was unfolding began to dawn on them, the crowds frantically dispersed, seeking shelter wherever they could find it. Most were successful. Too many were not.
The same arguments have already started again about gun control, second amendment rights, mental health, and the litany of other issues that accompany tragedies like this every time they make the news. Who knows, maybe something will change this time, though I won’t begin to claim that I have any idea what that change should be.
So here we are again, grieving for those whose lives have been forever altered by the senseless violence perpetrated by a sick and sinful individual.
Really, there’s not much to say beyond that. I’m sorry that I don’t have words of hope or joy to offset the sadness. I can encourage you to seek solace in the Bible verses you’ve probably heard and read many times over and ask you to pray for those who are hurting—both of which are certainly a right response to this kind of tragedy. But let’s not make the mistake of going to God and his word in an effort to numb the pain.
Too often, we offer thoughts and prayers because it just seems like the right thing to do rather than because our hearts genuinely mirror the brokenness felt by our heavenly Father. Let’s not forget that the Lord to whom we pray is grieving just as strongly as those who were harmed by the shooting, and a quick prayer devoid of any real intent or purpose is likely to ring as hollow to him as it would to those mourning in Highland Park today.
I’m sorry if that sounds too blunt. Maybe it is.
After all, none of us have the emotional capacity to feel the depth of God’s compassion for every broken heart. At the same time, if we use our limitations as an excuse never to try then we shouldn’t be surprised if our prayers prove ineffective and mundane.
I guess there’s just something about what happened at that parade that hits a bit closer to home, even though every single person who has suffered from the 312 other mass shootings this year and the countless others before them deserves our grief and our genuine intercession as well.
So whether you’re hearing about the shooting for the first time this morning or have been thinking about it since yesterday, please set aside some time today to genuinely pray.
If God leads you to do something besides pray, then do that as well, but start by going to the Lord and asking him to help you feel what he’s feeling. Ask him to help you mourn as he mourns. And ask him to remind you to approach him the same way the next time something like this happens, because it will.
Perhaps part of God’s redemption for the tragedy in Highland Park, though, will be helping his people know how to respond with hearts and minds more aligned with his when that next tragedy comes.
Let’s start today.