Needless to say, what a tough, tragic day Friday was in this country. Oh my goodness, too much to even comprehend or take in. I am beyond grieved for the families and the loss of those precious lives...and the unimaginable pain that now has to be endured. The whole thing is just so senseless that it's been tough to know what to think or at times how to pray. But over and over I am continually asking God to "draw them near, please draw each person hurt and touched by this tragedy so near and close to you. Bring so many to know you, to see you, to trust you and believe." I pray they know comfort beyond reason and peace that passes understanding. And that Jesus would be coming for us all soon.
Every other Sunday I teach the large group preschool time at church. This past Sunday I just couldn't stop staring into all their little faces, and almost got choked up even while I was leading the upbeat worship time. Their joy is so innocent and pure and wonderful. Children are the best. Even Jesus taught us this. I have hated the reality of last week's events over and over. And I just keep thinking the past couple days that it's enough. The death and sickness and blatant disregard for the sovereignty of God has gone too far. I pray with all my heart that it's over soon and we are welcomed into the most beautiful eternity in the presence of Jesus. Yet it would seem there's more work to be done.
For Christians, I pray over and over for courage and boldness. I pray often for the strength and wisdom to be able to raise my own kids with a courage that far surpasses my generation. I don't know which generation will be the one to usher in the return of Christ, but I do know this - we are in a battle, and the enemy is on the prowl. Yet he is fearful of us and especially of the one we follow. He is powerless and we are already victorious through Christ. As believers and followers of Christ we must recognize this and pray boldly for our families and our world in the name of Jesus so that the cowardly enemy is cast out and can claim no more souls for his destructive plans. As much as I hate conflict and ruffling feathers, I loathe so much more apathy and silence in myself and others when there is an opportunity to speak and take a stand. It's sad to see so many Christians unwilling to speak absolute truth in love, and to be so afraid to look crazy or different by speaking up unashamedly for Jesus and sharing the fullness of the life offered to all. So many people are aching to be told the life giving truth. And we must tell them, while becoming more faithful than ever in prayer. We need some serious healing in this world.
"If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land." 2 Chronicles 7:14
This morning I saw a well known pastor doing an interview concerning this tragic event in CT...and found it heartbreaking how he responded when asked if we should now, more than ever, focus on the true meaning of Christmas rather than the commercialized version. He and his wife talked about loving each other...but never even mentioned the name of Jesus, or the sovereignty of our Creator God, before whom we desperately need to humble ourselves and fervently pray. What a missed opportunity to share the gospel with the whole country, and the amazing love story that our Creator wrote for us...and in which we have a role. Please let us not be in company with this particular pastor...as the opportunities around us rise to connect with strangers, coworkers, or friends over the grief we all share for such a tragedy that has occurred, let's be sure to lovingly yet boldly share the wonderful story of a Savior who humbled himself to rescue us from life threatening darkness. Jesus, when speaking to his disciples before leaving them and after explaining what was about to happen to him said, "I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world." (John 16:33)
One verse that has reoccurred so much in my heart and mind this past year is John 10:10. "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full."
Oh how I long to share the message that Jesus came so that we may have life to the full! As it says in the Psalms, and I've alluded to before, we are like grasshoppers down here, while God "sits enthroned upon the circle of the earth." What an undeserved and loving gift to be offered true, full, beautiful eternal life. And what a message we have to share. Our Savior is the light in the midst of all this darkness.
I love what Jesus later goes on to say:
"My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all[c]; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand." John 10:27-29
I trust in our loving heavenly Father who had each of us in mind before he ever began knitting us in our mother's wombs. I long to know him, to listen to his voice, and follow where he leads. We must start falling to our knees in realization of our desperate need for him. I pray now and in the days ahead that those spirits most crushed by the loss of the ones they so dearly loved, would know and believe and feel the abundant life God intended as opposed to the death and darkness that seeks to overwhelm in this broken world. Draw them near Father. Please, please heal their hearts and draw them so near to yours. Draw us all to you and give us the courage to do your will...so that your return for us will be soon.
"The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." Psalm 34:18
(Bob Russell wrote a particularly powerful blog post this past weekend concerning what happened in Newtown.)