Even as parents in Uvalde, Texas, waited on Tuesday evening to find out if their precious children were alive or dead, outraged social media users were already well into their attacks on those they felt were to blame for the horrific shooting and who they saw as offering little more than well-worn platitudes.
“Thoughts and prayers are not enough!” they angrily proclaimed. In fact, this statement has become a new, favorite refrain of gun control proponents, who argue that the politicians, pastors, and other Americans who provide sympathy to the victims of mass shootings are covering up their own inaction by invoking the seemingly hollow “thoughts and prayers.”
“I’m sick and tired of innocent people being gunned down in innocent places,” wrote Florida Rep. Val Demings, D, on Twitter on Wednesday. “Thoughts and prayers aren’t enough. The United States Senate needs to get off their knees and do something about our children being gunned down in school.”
“Thoughts and prayers are not enough,” declared 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. “After years of nothing else, we are becoming a nation of anguished screams. We simply need legislators willing to stop the scourge of gun violence in America that is murdering our children.”
“Sandy Hook was 10 years ago. We keep asking for gun control and we keep getting thoughts and prayers,” wrote writer Tony Posnanski, before going so far as to add that “Thoughts and prayers are killing a lot of innocent people.”
“We need gun control,” he concluded.
These sentiments were echoed by countless infuriated Twitter users who contrasted “thoughts and prayers” to the kind of policy they believe would put an end to school shootings.
Putting our nation’s well-worn policy debate over gun control and gun violence entirely aside, however, the outrage that the American public feels when so many young, innocent lives are cruelly gunned down by a crazed madman is wholly understandable.
As the mother of two boys the same ages as most of the victims in Uvalde, the first sensation I felt was absolute numbness. I couldn’t even conceive the magnitude of such a wicked massacre. When sensation returned, it was cruelly painful, even more painful than the entirely-too-tight hugs I’ve been giving my boys ever since.
I can’t even imagine the grief of those who will never hug their own children again.
So, while it might seem like there is no indignation more righteous than that issued towards politicians and other Americans with nothing more to offer than “thoughts and prayers,” it entirely misses the point of offering “thoughts and prayers.”
Sadly, like everything else in our country in 2022, the expression “thoughts and prayers” has been hyper-politicized, and what prompts outrage is the absence of a vow to commit to banning certain weapons or expanding gun control measures.
Yet if we had a magic, unconstitutional wand that we could wave today that would make all the guns in this country disappear, it would never bring the 19 students and 2 teachers who were killed in cold blood on Tuesday back to life.
We offer thoughts and prayers to provide what no amount of policy change possibly can — comfort from a higher power for the parents and family members who will have to bury their loved ones and live the rest of the life under the shadow of this unthinkably cruel loss.
The Bible tells us that the purpose of government on earth is to punish those who do evil (1 Peter 2:14). Yet it is God who comforts the hearts of the brokenhearted (Psalm 34:18).
This kind of divine ministry is something that the state can never do. It’s not what it was ordained by God for, and our republic was not established to respond with policy to every emotional whim of the public, no matter how heart-wrenching.
It is currently trendy in the United States to diminish punishments for evildoers, often in the same localities where gun crime is rampant and many favored gun control measures are well established.
Now, we could go back and forth with statistics on crime, violence, our mental health epidemic, the degradation of the family unit, security in schools, and every other factor at play in the Texas school shooting, all of which would look towards policy to prevent another shooting from happening in the future and which is far from entirely invalid. They will all have a place in the conversation in the days ahead.
What has absolutely no place in the conversation, however, is to tell someone who says they will pray for a grieving person that their prayers are “not enough.”
Prayer is always enough because prayer calls on the Lord to do what no man on earth can do, which is to comfort our hearts in the face of the unthinkable, to give a grieving parent the strength to carry on, and to contextualize human wickedness in the story of His great plan for mankind.
This great plan, of course, is redemption through His Son Jesus Christ, as well as the promise of the Lord’s return and judgement of every soul on earth, including the soul of the Texas shooter, who will answer to His maker for His crimes and will be administered the justice he deserves — the justice we all deserve apart from Christ.
We pray and appeal to God because He can fix what no amount of policy and politicking ever can — the problem of evil, and He has fixed this problem already with His victory on the cross. The demons are simply wreaking havoc and destruction while waiting for what they know is coming.
So please don’t ever let anyone tell you that your thoughts and prayers are not enough. They are more than enough. They go above and beyond our earthly ability to quell violence and save lives. Our prayers have the power to save souls and to bring those devastated by wicked acts into restoration with their Lord, who will make all things right one day.
My thoughts and prayers are with the victims of the Uvalde shooting and their families, and I will never stop praying for them or anyone else who is suffering under the oppression of this wicked world. It is the only way we can move forward.