On October 2nd, I walked downstairs with my early-morning-rising daughter. I turned on the fireplace, set her on the couch and walked over to the TV. Little three-year-old Carolina woke me saying she wanted to watch “A Lego Show.” Trying to just get her to be calm and quiet so I could get my coffee, I obliged her request and turned on the TV to try and find “A Lego Show” on Netflix. Before I could even change the TV input, the last channel the TV was on flashed across the screen—“Worst Shooting in U.S. History.”
Needless to say, she never got to watch her lego show. I never got my coffee. Instead, I stood there in front of the TV in shock. I couldn’t believe my eyes. With every passing minute, it seemed the newscasters were playing detective roles and piecing evidence together right before my eyes.
I’ve seen this kind of thing before, sadly. The lights, the images, the news reports, all of it seemed eerily familiar, just in grander number now. The Columbine shooting in 1999 is a big part of my life story, as it happened in my hometown. I remember racing home from my local Littleton high school and taking the same posture of unbelief right in front of the TV. Five years ago, the same thing, as a theatre in Aurora I passed many times had a massive shooting, killing 12 and wounding over 70. Here I was again, in front the TV, in shock.
One thing I am sure of (because I have seen it myself) is that God can use tragedy and bring triumph. As the lives of so many have been taken, and the unforgettable images of suffering are displayed before us, it is clear that we have experienced tragic loss. But God is God over our losses and our gains. He is over our failures and our victories. He is the God who can take the worst shooting in history and use it for His glory.
Even this morning as I woke again, those images of dying people or hurt people that I saw running on endless newsreel play through my thoughts. It is easy to feel helpless and hopeless, but in these times we must respond by seeking our Helper and our Hope for life.
“He alone is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I will never be shaken.” —Psalm 62:2 (HCSB)
I started questioning yesterday—“How do I even pray for this event?” When we don’t know what to say to others about it, we scarcely know what to say to God about it. As always, when I don’t know what to pray, I pray the Bible. I give God’s Words back to Him.
What to pray:
- Pray for comfort for those who lost someone. Praying for those who are already gone may seem pointless, but seeking God on behalf of those who are left behind is essential. Pray for their comfort and salvation. Romans 10:1 says, “Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved.” Using these words of Paul, ask that the Father would call them to know Jesus Christ as their mighty God, wonderful counselor and everlasting God.
- Pray for those who saw things they will never forget. As I watched the news last night with Molly, a lady came on that was in the shooting. She could barely speak and I said out loud, “That woman is still in shock.” How could she not be? What they saw and the trauma they experienced is unimaginable. Pray for their minds, hearts and emotions. Pray they too will know Jesus through this. Here is a scripture to guide you to pray for them: “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” — Romans 5:3-4 (NIV)
- Pray for the Gospel to go forth. Ask God to make the name of Jesus Christ known in light of the tragedy. Even President Trump was quoting Scripture (Psalm 34:18) yesterday. That is good, but pray that Jesus Christ will be exalted and that evil will fail. Ask God to use the churches around the US to proclaim hope to their body and the community they are in. Petition the Father to let the new media be a source of sharing the light of the Gospel. In the same tone of Colossians 4:3, pray that “God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ.”
- Pray and ask God what you are to learn from this tragedy. I am keenly aware that God is always discipling us and teaching us. He is forming you and me into the likeness of His Son. Ask God to show you what you need to learn through this—just pray, “God, what do you want to show me through this?” I guarantee He will make something clear to you if you are humbly asking Him for this revelation. He may foster in your heart a longing to help those who hurt. He may show you something about His character. He may bring someone across your path that needs encouragement. Keep your eyes open. Pray this verse, “So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.” — Galatians 6:10.
One last thing: I find that some good worship has a way of fostering an environment of prayer (and hope) for me. Here are some songs you need to add to your playlist:
- “The Rock Won’t Move” by Vertical Worship
- “It is well” by Kristene Dimarco
- “Sovereign over us” by Aaron Keyes
- “He Hears My Voice” by David Boloche
I am praying with you and for you.