The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.
— Psalm 34:18

As I sit down to write this, my heart is so heavy. As a mother, as a Texan, and as a preschool ministry leader, events like the one in Uvalde weigh so heavily. It feels like it is more and more often — and more and more painful — as we endure such tragedies in the broken world we live in. One of the most painful things I am experiencing this morning is the repeated realization that our children can no longer just be children. Over and over, I am explaining to our 11-year-old that bad things happen because of sin and free will in a fallen world. Only Jesus’ return will fix this, and in the meantime, it feels like we just chip away at their childlike innocence more and more often.

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the Kingdom of Heaven.”
— Matthew 19:14

What a beautiful promise that is from the book of Matthew. As most of you have probably experienced by now, the comments, feelings, emotions, and reactions of the nation and the world run the gamut: everything from sadness and pain to political stances and finger-pointing. What makes me the saddest are those who are questioning God right now. It is not that I don’t think God can handle their questions; I just know that the God of my heart is grieving our broken world far more than I ever could. God grieved first. He shed the first tears. He knew our hearts would be broken today long before we did. And he was right there, ready to receive the precious souls of children and teachers. Ready to comfort their parents and friends. Ready to comfort us. But to receive that comfort, we have to place our faith in him, faith that he is a good God who only wants the best for us. And we must acknowledge that there is an evil in the world that seeks to destroy those who love and serve the Lord. Those who suggest that “actions and change” should replace “thoughts and prayers” do not have an understanding of the powerful weapon of prayer. Our prayers need to govern every change that is made and every action that takes place. The world cannot expect God to intervene in the very situations that we have removed him from. Our prayers need to blanket our families, churches, cities, schools, and nations. He is our only hope. The true victory of the world on this side of heaven will only begin when every knee is bent in prayer.

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.
— John 15:13

I couldn’t help but reflect on the context of Casey’s sermon from Sunday: the more you serve, the greater you become. There was no greater act of service than the teachers, staff, and law enforcement that looked evil squarely in the eye to shield the children who could not shield themselves. My heart is clinging to the hope and image that the rewards in heaven looked so sweet for those selfless teachers and that there was a joyful and beautiful reunion with their precious students. As believers, this is the hope we can cling to, that our God can bring beauty from ashes. If one more person comes to know Jesus in tragedies like this, then there is one more warrior to join the fight against darkness and corruption. There is one more person to tell their story of freedom in salvation. There is one more believer to tell of the purpose of the Cross.

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
— Romans 12:21

Friends, I encourage you as the body of Christ to grieve but to grieve with hope. Pray God’s tender mercies over the affected families and the town of Uvalde. Pray for action and change to start with the changing of human hearts. Pray for hearts to be made new, not just better. A new heart in Jesus can lead to change. It doesn’t change what we do. It changes what we want to do. From the beginning of time, as far back as Cain and Abel, evil in the form that we saw this week isn’t about the instrument of death. It is about the purity of heart and soundness of the mind of the hand holding the instrument. So as you pray for justice and righteousness, laws and leaders, also pray for the blood of Jesus to change the hearts of our land. It is the only hope we have as believers.