While spectators from around the world watched the 2018 winter Olympics from Pyeong Chang, South Korea, many Americans turned their attention to breaking news from within our own country. On Valentine’s Day 2018, the lives of more than 17 families were permanently altered when a teenage male began shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Like so many, my heart is heavy as a result of this tragedy. The shooting was at my niece’s school. Physically she is fine, but it was quite a traumatic experience for all involved and not all of her classmates were as fortunate to escape unharmed. The morning after, while I was able to be in touch with my brother and niece, not all families were able to talk with their loved ones. My heart grieves for them. Just a couple weekends ago I attended a funeral for a friend’s son who died much too early in life for our comfort. And now many more families are planning funerals after this senseless tragedy.

Since news broke out about the tragedy, I’ve seen so much on my news feed about gun control and about political opinion. There have been rants about mental health and even people blaming God. Early on questions were posed about the shooter’s race. My first reaction was frustration for the grieving families. Could we not recognize that there were families who were grieving the loss of children and spouses? There were families whose dinner tables will never be complete again. There were families who had dreams who will now never see their children walk across the graduation stage, much less marry or have their own children. There were now spouses who instantaneously became widows. They started their days just like we did, hitting the snooze button on the alarm, tripping over dogs, spilling coffee, arguing over who rode shot-gun, complaining about traffic, and they would give anything to be able to do it all over again knowing their family would be there at the end of the day to share their highs and their lows…never ever thinking that their low would include anything this devastating.

While the banter across social media and even on the news stations has included hypotheses about the why’s and what we could do to stop it, I think it really comes back to a heart issue and a matter of love. Love? Yes, love. I think it comes down to an individual not knowing how much his heavenly Father loves him. If he did, he would have love for others, not anger and hate.

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matthew 22:36-39) But you see, we cannot give what we do not have. This young man did not know his Father’s love. “The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.’” (Jeremiah 31:3)

So many people I meet do not truly appreciate just how much God loves them, or their identity in Christ. That makes ALL the difference. Romans 2:4 says, that it is the kindness of God that leads to repentance. Yet so many have difficulty accepting that God is good, kind, loving, and faithful. They haven’t experienced that in their earthly parents, so they can’t fathom that in a heavenly Father. But they are deceived. John 10:10 says “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy, but I have come that they might have life and have it to the full.” The problem is, that too many are listening to the enemy of their soul and not the giver of love and life.

This tragedy was an act of evil in the south Florida community. The enemy came to steal, kill, and destroy from those families, that school, and that community. But my faith remains in God who is greater than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4).

This really hits home for me. Not just because my niece could have been a victim, but because I worked as a first responder with my fellow interns in the Oklahoma City bombing and I still can’t get the sights, sounds, and smells of that evil out of my mind. But Jesus died on the cross FOR those who committed evil against Him BECAUSE He LOVED. Love is not the popular answer, but it is truth.

My heart is grieved for the families who have lost loved ones in this terrible tragedy, for the staff and students who have been traumatized by the events, and for the deceived heart of the perpetrator. But I serve a God who can use ALL things for good.

May we pray for ALL who were involved, and, as we are commanded to do, may we be conduits of God’s love.

Father,
We lift our eyes to you, because you are the one from whom our help comes (Ps. 121). We live in a fallen world that is corrupted by evil. As much as the recent tragedies grieve our hearts, they grieve yours more. You promise to be near to the broken-hearted and save those who are crushed in spirit (Ps. 34:18)—be near to those families now, Lord. Be the lifter of their heads (Ps. 3:3). Father, you have promised to work ALL things together for our good, for those who love you and have been called according to your purpose (Rom. 8:28). Do that even here, Lord. What the enemy intended for harm in this situation, please work for your good, Father (Gen. 50:20). We pray that no weapon formed against these families, this school, or this community will prosper, in Jesus’s name (Is. 54:17).

Father, I pray that you will be the God of all comfort (2 Cor. 1:3) for the staff, the families, and the first responders involved. Hold them close. Let your love pervade the community and this country. May we turn our hearts toward you. Let your light shine out in the darkness (2 Cor. 4:6).

May your kindness lead to repentance (Rom. 2:4). May that young man and anyone else who doesn’t know you come to know you as their Lord and Savior through this tragedy (John 3:16). May they come to know you as Redeemer (Is. 44:6) and Restorer and Healer (Jer. 30:17). May we extend forgiveness (Matt. 6:15), mercy, grace, and love, so that they world will know we are your disciples (John 15:35).

Wipe the tears from our eyes, Lord (Rev. 21:4). You have promised to give beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, and festive praise for despair (Is. 61:3). Though weeping may last through the night, we long for you to bring joy to the hearts of all those affected, Father (Ps. 30:5). There is so much we do not understand, but we trust that you are a good God and your plans include a future and a hope (Jer. 29:11).

Thank you Lord, that because of you, #HopePrevails!
Amen.

May we pray for all who were involved in the tragedy on Valentine’s Day 2018, and, as we are commanded to do, may we be conduits of God’s love. #prayer #hope #trustGod

 

 

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While the banter across social media and even on the news stations has included hypotheses about the why’s and what we could do to stop it, I think it really comes back to a heart issue and a matter of love. Love? Yes, love. #hope #Christianinspiration

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