Pray for God to show how to help shooting victims

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Ash Wednesday fell on Valentine's Day this year but also tragically a school shooting in Florida in which 17 people were killed.

It's one of the deadliest school shootings in history. A day that celebrates love will be marred by this unthinkable event. The list of victims isn't reserved for those who died last Wednesday but for their families and friends, for the students and teachers who huddled in terror waiting for the shooting to stop. These and what seems like a pandemic of shootings in recent memory thin our sense of safety, especially for those school-aged and with school-aged loved ones.

There is no vindication for something like this, no closure that offers any satisfying relief. There is anger, sometimes misplaced, that spills from the very raw wound left in the aftermath. As believers, we should burn with righteous anger. This is not what God intended for his people. He sees the pain caused by callous killing.

It's easy, in my opinion, for us only lightly affected by such tragedies to preach peace to victims and tell them not to be angry, which, if you've ever been on the receiving end of such a speech, is the very last thing you want to hear.

We want justice against evil, and few things are as evil as one person needlessly taking the life of another. It's OK to be angry, furious at the loss of life, but we are commanded to cede the anger to the One whose wrath burns hot against those who commit evil.

"Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: 'It is mine to avenge; I will repay,' says the Lord." (Romans 12:19, NIV)

It's not enough for believers to offer their "thoughts and prayers" for the victims. Frankly, I'm not sure how to send a thought to someone. Our prayers for these individuals should be for their comfort and peace but also to seek God's will in how we should react as believers. Pray for peace but also that "justice [would] roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream." (Amos 5:24, NIV).

There is nothing we can say that will take away the pain, the heartache caused by tragedy. We can show others the hope found in our Heavenly Father. I hope you will set aside a time shortly after reading this column to pray and ask God to show you a way to help those victims.

Email Jamie H. Wilson at faithmatterssumter@gmail.com.