In the wake of mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, pastor and author Max Lucado is urging the U.S. to “welcome Jesus into the midst of this turbulent time” instead of responding with fear and anger.
After two shootings over the weekend left at least 29 dead and dozens of others wounded, the San Antonio pastor and best-selling author noted that many are responding to this “dark season of bloodshed” with anger and fear.
“Anger is the choice of many. Anger at politicians. Anger at the NRA. Anger at God. We become bitter and sour toward this world; toward one another,” Lucado wrote in an op-ed for Fox News. “Fear is another option. Lock the doors and close the windows. Avoid every shadow and dark alley.”
But the Bible offers direction on how to respond amid storms, the pastor contended. He pointed to John 6, where Jesus walked on the water to join His disciples in their boat in the middle of a terrifying storm. Amid the disciples’ fear and anxiety, Jesus said to them: “It is I; don’t be afraid.” (John 6:19- 20).
“The literal translation of what Jesus said is ‘I AM; don’t be afraid,’” Lucado explained. “I AM is God’s name. If God had a calling card, it would contain this imprint: I AM.”
“This is the title of steadiness and power. When we wonder if God is coming, he answers with his name: ‘I AM!’ When we wonder if he is able, he declares, ‘I AM.’ When we see nothing but darkness, feel nothing but doubt, and wonder if God is near or aware, the welcome answer from Jesus is this: ‘I AM!’”
Lucado advised readers to “pause and invite God to tell us his name.”
“Our greatest need is his presence. Yes, we want this storm to pass. Yes, we want the winds to still. But yes, yes, yes, we want to know, need to know, and must know that the great I AM is coming,” he wrote.
The pastor pointed out that when the disciples invited Christ into their boat, they reached their destination.
“Let’s follow the example of the disciples. Welcome Jesus into the midst of this turbulent time,” he concluded. “Don’t let the storm turn you inward. Let it turn you upward. Listen and see if you don’t hear him say: I AM with you in the storm.”
On Saturday afternoon, a gunman opened fire outside of a Walmart in a busy shopping center in El Paso, killing at least 20 and wounded two dozen others. Ahead of the attack, the suspect, 21-year-old Patrick Crusius, is believed to have posted a racist manifesto online that included anti-immigrant rhetoric.
Hours later, another gunman opened fire on the streets of a popular area in downtown Dayton, leaving nine dead and dozens injured. The suspect, Connor Betts, 24, was killed by responding officers.
The shootings were the 21st and 22nd mass killings of 2019 in the U.S. and followed a week in which Gilroy, California; Brooklyn, New York; and Philadelphia were struck by gun violence.
Over the weekend, a number of Christian leaders, artists, and pastors took to social media to express their sorrow over the shootings.
“It is in this evil world we must stand strong,” tweeted Bible teacher Beth Moore. “It is in this madness we must think soundly. It's amid these dangers our hearts must neither melt nor harden. It's here & now we who follow Jesus must be brave & bold in love & truth, defending the defenseless & not the indefensible.”
Franklin Graham, son of evangelist Billy Graham, wrote that the number of victims of the mass shootings “is much higher than the headlines reveal, because each mother, each father, each sister and brother, each wife and husband, is also a victim—a victim of the heinous and senseless evil unleashed by two murderous gunmen.”
“Their loved ones have been stolen from them,” he stated. “As we mourn with these families and communities, let’s continue to sincerely lift them up in prayer before the Lord. He is the only one who can comfort and wholly heal their broken hearts.”
Craig Groeschel, pastor of Life.Church, tweeted: "Please join me in prayer for all those affected by the tragic shooting in El Paso, TX. My heart breaks for this community. 'The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.' — Psalm 34:18."
Also on Twitter, Christian NFL star Benjamin Watson wrote: “In the face of evil and tragedy be not weary in well doing. Never cease to be moved by the suffering of others. Mourn with those who mourn.”