It was a Saturday night like any other. She was a widowed woman nearing the age of 60, sitting in her house in Downtown Lynchburg watching the news at 11pm because she wasn’t very tired that night. She was seeing all of the horrible events that have been happening around the world, thinking about how blessed she was in Lynchburg, having her son living down the road from her and having a city with so many kind-hearted people surrounding her.
At 11:27, her son’s name popped up in caller ID on her phone. She smiled because she hadn’t had the chance to talk to him since a few days before. However, when it wasn’t her son’s voice that came through the phone, her smile turned into a puzzled expression, and when the next words came through, her face changed into pure disbelief. The person on the other side of the phone was a police officer. He said to her, “Ma’am, I’m calling to inform you that your son was shot and killed tonight while downtown. I am so sorry. If there is anything we can do for you, please let me know.” As she heard the news, her body crippled into a heap on the floor. She bawled, forgetting to hang up the phone with the police officer on the other side. She had never imagined that something like this would happen, especially on a beautiful Saturday night when life seemed so good. She spent the night sitting in her living room, TV on, but she was numb to any words coming out of it. All she could think about was how she would never get to talk to her son again. She had lost her precious child.
She ended up crying herself to sleep, but woke up in fits of intense grief throughout the night, and by the time it got light outside at 7am, she gave up on sleeping. She didn’t even know what to do with herself at this point. Suddenly, she heard a voice in the stillness of the house saying, “Go to church this morning.” God had spoken to her. She didn’t want to obey. She didn’t want people to see her breaking down in helplessness. She couldn’t possibly face a few hundred people and pretend like everything was fine.
But she said okay, God.
She obeyed God’s command, even though everything inside of her wanted to stay home. She had only been going to One Community Church for a few weeks. A neighbor had invited her to their outdoor service, and she instantly was attracted to the Spirit that is so present in the people there. So she had been back the next two weeks and loved every minute of it. But this week, she was reluctant to walk in the doors and face people who had no idea what she had gone through the night before.
She told the pastor what happened and hesitantly agreed to let people pray for her during the service.
This is where I come in. The above story may or may not be exactly how it happened, but the following part of the story is completely accurate and happened just this past Sunday while I was at church.
So, after a spirit-filled time of worship, the pastor stood on stage and brought this lady up with him, and he told the congregation that this woman, who has only been coming for a few weeks, lost her son to a shooting in downtown Lynchburg last night. Her face was filled with sorrow, and I could feel the mood of the room change as soon as he said what happened. The pastor then said that he would love it if we could all come up and lay hands on this sweet woman and pray. So we went. Every single person stood up, moved forward, and prayed. Tears filled my eyes as God filled me with empathy for this stranger’s grief. I felt the sadness she felt. Maybe only a small piece of it compared to the immense pain of losing your own son, but nevertheless, God allowed me to share in her sorrows.
I prayed for healing and peace for this sweet lady. I prayed for the city of Lynchburg, because yes there’s a Christian college with 15,000 believers, but the rest of the city is filled with lost souls in need of a Savior. I spoke hope into her life and into the lives of the locals. Many prayed out loud and many were grieving with her for what felt like a long time. It was heartbreaking and beautiful at the same time to see a community of believers lift up this lady together.
Galatians 6:2 says, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” God wants us to take on other’s burdens because it lightens the load for those people. I could just feel the mood lift in the room after that prayer; the lady walked out of church with so much weight off of her shoulders compared to what she had come in with. Yes, she will still be grieving for a long time. But, she now has a family of believers who she knows she can turn to because we have taken on just a piece of the sadness she holds in her heart. We share in her suffering, so that she doesn’t have to suffer alone.
I don’t really know why I felt so compelled to share this story with you all today, but God just pressed it on my heart, so I’m thinking someone needed to hear this. If you yourself are going through something hard, please don’t be afraid to share it with other believers. It is our duty and joy as Christians to be able to help you through it and share in your suffering with you. And if someone you know is going through something hard, do everything you can to be there for them in this time. We are called to be there for one another, and when we come together in times of loss like this, it’s a beautiful thing.