On Monday morning, I left the house early. The last person I said goodbye to on my way out the door was Sophie, my 6-year-old. I had to get down on one knee to look her in the eye and take in her wide smile (which is missing a few teeth). She’s a cutie. So eager to love and hug. So excited to take on the day, whatever day it is. So little. So fragile. As I hugged her, I was overcome with the thought that only 3 days before, a man walked into an elementary school and murdered 20 Sophies. What did he see on their faces as he burst into their classroom? How many of them were smiling just seconds before … probably with the precious teeth-missing smile only true of a 6-year-old?
If you are like me, you are struggling with how to process what happened in Newtown. I’ve felt everything from anger to fear to deep sadness. I’ve wondered why God let this happen. I’ve wondered why human existence can simultaneously hold such high joy and such profound suffering. As we personally sort through last week’s horrible events, how should we go about it as Christians? Here’s a starter list:
We should grieve.
Death is not the way it’s supposed to be, but death has cast its shadow since Genesis 3. Murder is not the way it’s supposed to be, but it has haunted the human race since a brother killed a brother in Genesis 4. Sin is not the way it’s supposed to be, but our own sin and the sin of others disrupts our world. The reality is that the world is under Satan’s influence. He is called the “god of this world” and “our adversary, who prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” Satan’s influence is real. Another reality is that the world is broken by sin. Sin is a controlling drive that causes human beings to turn away from God and hurt other people in both big and small ways. Sin’s influence is real. All of this is grievous.
We should be indignant.
What happened in Connecticut was pure evil; the destruction of human beings, who are created in the image of God. God hates it. We should hate it too. The LORD hates “hands that shed innocent blood” (Prov 6:17) and he forbids murder (Ex 20:13).
We should pray.
Times like these can make us feel helpless. I want to do something to help, but it seems like there’s nothing I can do from so far away. Well, we can approach God’s throne of grace and intercede on behalf of those who are suffering. Pray for comfort, for peace, for healing, for strength to endure such great pain and loss, for Jesus to reveal himself to people in the midst of this terrible situation (he is known for showing up in less than desirable circumstances…consider his birth). Pray also for national leaders and lawmakers as they begin to navigate the complex waters of gun control and mental health care. Pray that decisions would be wise, just, and would promote the flourishing of humanity.
We should hope.
Victoria Soto, a 27-year-old teacher in Newtown, hid her students in a closet and then placed herself between the children and the assailant. She died in order that her students might live. She was reportedly found huddled over the children. In the midst of unspeakable darkness, there was a bright shining light of life. Death can never be confronted and overcome without sacrifice. The defeat of death is costly. At Christmas, we remember that “the true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.” Jesus, the light of the world, was born into darkness for a reason. He was born to defeat the darkness of sin and death. He was born to die … to give his life so that others might live. On the cross Jesus paid the debt for sin, and at his resurrection he showed us that death will not win. One day, he will come again to make all things right, to wipe away every tear that is being shed in Newtown and places like it around the world. His coming is our longing. His coming is our great hope that darkness will not prevail. Amen, come Lord Jesus.