I looked at my phone in shock as I tried to comprehend Grant’s text message.

GraceAnna, there’s been a shooting. It’s bad. At an elementary school.

I was in the middle of eating chicken fingers and waffle fries with my nephews and nieces in Atlanta. I had just surprised them by my visit. I hadn’t seen them in months. There was lots of hugging and kissing and interrupting as we were reunited.

When I read Grant’s message, I didn’t know how to process it. There were little children all around me. Joyful faces. Laughter. Hugs.

Just moments later, my brother whispered the same thing to my sister-in-law and me. He spoke in vague terms, not wanting the older children to know what he was talking about.

Surely, there hadn’t been a shooting at a school? Surely, children hadn’t died? This couldn’t have happened. How could this happen? What did it mean?

I didn’t want to know what it meant. I didn’t want to believe it was true.

As the day unfolded, a dark cloud hung over my visit with my nieces and nephews. Their laughter and sweet voices sent a pain through my heart as I began to understand the evil that took place earlier that day.

My mind immediately went back to my days of student teaching in college. I taught kindergarten and first grade. Those children were precious to me. I can still see their faces and hear their sweet voices that so often said, “I love you, Miss Broggi!”

Children who were so impressionable, eager to learn, and who beamed when praised.

As Dec. 14 came to a close, and I finally found some time to be alone without little eyes and ears nearby, I read the details of the shooting on my laptop. Tears streamed down my face as I pictured the faces of those children in their last moments of life. Were they scared? Did they know what was about to happen? Did they see the others?

As I sat alone, I began to feel the darkness pressing into my soul. As a mother, there is nothing more frightening than imagining harm befalling your children. They are vulnerable and helpless. Good mothers and fathers want to do everything in their power to protect their children from harm.

My worst nightmare is that something will happen to one of my little girls and I won’t be able to save them from it.

I wanted to imagine that help had come to Sandy Hook. I wanted to pretend that a hero had arrived and was able to stop the villain before he acted.

But no one had been able to stop it from happening.

It happened in all of its gruesome horror. And now there are parents whose son or daughter will never come home. Empty beds. Sweet faces frozen in childhood. Broken hearts beyond imagine.

I cannot imagine a more painful loss in this world than having to say good-bye to a child.

As I tried to process it in the days that followed, I was overcome by how dark things felt and seemed. Death is such a horrible thing. It’s unnatural. It’s not a part of how God originally made the world. It’s a result of sin, as the book of Genesis clearly describes.

But thankfully, God did not leave us in the darkness. I was comforted greatly by several passages from John 1:

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (vs. 5)

“The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (vs.9-13)

This world is a dark place that has been marred by sin. And yet, God entered into it to save us. Never did I understand that so deeply as I did this past Christmas. The words, “Joy to the world, the Lord has come!” caused me to rejoice in a brand new way.

But the thing about the darkness, is that the light shines so much brighter in it.

10 days after the Sandy Hook shooting, I attended a Christmas Eve service at the church I grew up in where my dad is pastor. It felt like everyone was grieving that night. As we lit our candles, the dark sanctuary slowly went from dark to light. picstitch-1

I listened to my dad’s words as he held up his candle,

“God’s called you to be the light of the world. Men don’t put a lamp under a basket, but they set it up high, so that all in the room can benefit from its light. This is a day, more than ever, in America and in our world, a world of increasing darkness, where we need to be holding our lights high. So if you know Christ as your Savior, I want to encourage you as you light your candle, to make a prayer in your heart that in this upcoming year God would use you to be a light in the midst of darkness.”

As I have reflected on that service over the past couple months, I have realized that is it going to take great courage to shine. It’s going to take godly and unwavering boldness that finds its origin in God’s Word.

It’s not simply helpful to be a light, it is necessary. We must point those around us to the hope of the Gospel. We must point them to the only One who can save them from darkness.

As a young mother, I want to be courageous when it comes to raising my children. I want to anchor my mothering in the truth of God’s Word. I want to recognize that every day is an opportunity to build into my children’s lives and is truly a gift.

There are things beyond my control. I may wake up one day to find out something terrible has happened and there was nothing I could do about it.

But one thing I know and cling to with all my heart is that there is a God who sent His Son into the darkness. And that Son bore the gruesome darkness of sin so that those who put their trust in Him can be forgiven.

The light shines in the darkness...

One day, when my little girls see and feel the darkness, I want them to know that they don’t have to be afraid because someone did come to save them.

Someone who is stronger than the bad guys.

I want them to turn to the true light.

And hopefully, I will have shown them where to find it.

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