I woke up on Friday, December 14, 2012, with a mile-long list of things that HAD to get done. Christmas is coming, after all. There were packages to mail, presents to wrap and a Christmas letter yet unwritten. Not to mention the fact that there were Christmas decorations laying in the middle of the living room floor that either needed to be put up or packed away. I imagine there were many people all across the country doing very similar things on Friday.

And then, I heard the news; a gunman, maybe two, had opened fire in an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. As is often the case with a breaking story, the “facts” changed throughout the day but the pure evil of what happened never changed. Suddenly, putting up Christmas decorations, wrapping gifts or writing the annual Christmas letter seemed like impossible and somewhat trivial tasks.

The first image I saw from the scene was of children holding onto the classmate in front of them while teachers and police led them away from the school. The teachers looked as though there were doing all they could to hold it together and the fear on the children’s faces was palpable. My heart hurt, and I did the only thing I could do. I prayed. Sometimes my prayer was simply, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus” and yes, occasionally it was “Why? Why did this happen, Lord?” To be honest, words were hard to find and yet I am confident that Jesus knew exactly what was needed. The words of Romans 8:26 brought me comfort, “And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words.”

The next image I saw from the scene was that of the rescue workers in the staging area. The strain on their faces was evident. I don’t even want to think about the horrors that those men and women saw on Friday. How will they possibly go on with life in any kind of normal way? And so I prayed for healing in their hearts and minds. I ask Jesus to shower them with mercy that only He can provide.

The image of a woman standing by her car with a petrified look on her face as she awaited news of her sister, who taught in the school, won’t soon leave my mind. I can’t fathom what it would be like to wait on the sidelines when what you want to do is jump over barricades to find, and hold onto, the one you love. In my mind that woman represented of all the families; mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, even friends, all waiting to see if their child, or friend, or co-worker would be on “the list” of casualties. And though my prayers seem so small and meaningless, it’s all I know to do.

There is one more image that won’t leave my mind: never seen, but imagined. It’s of the moms and dads who lost children on Friday having to go home again to a festively decorated house and presents purchased for their sweet little ones. I picture moms holding onto the dolls they bought for their daughterss, or the trucks for their sons, and weeping until they fall into a fitful sleep exhausted from the tears. I picture dads unplugging the lights and throwing out the tree because it’s just too hard to deal with the sadness. And, once again, I pray for those families.

Jesus is really the only hope for the survivors of Friday’s tragic events, and yet we are left wondering, “Is there anything we can do?” I believe the answer is yes. A friend of mine posted this on Facebook Friday afternoon: “Let’s displace the evil that occurred in Connecticut today with good. Love your family in extra doses. Share with a friend how much they mean to you. Give to someone in need. Embrace the opportunities you have before you today!”

We can’t change what happened on Friday but we can show God’s love to a hurting world. We can give, we can love, we can forgive, and we can share the hope that only He can offer. And we can pray.