Its now been several days removed from horrible massacre in Newtown. When tragedies like this happen, we all have defense mechanisms to help us cope (I’m talking about we bystanders-not the victims or families of such victims). Sometimes we run to agnosticism: how could God exist in this mess? Sometimes we assume God could have done nothing to stop this from happening. Sometimes we protect ourselves by just not allowing ourselves to feel such pain. I know I do that. Not that we become apathetic, but we don’t allow ourselves to go to such despairing depths.
Much has been written about this tragedy and how to process all this mess. These are simply some of my thoughts, that serve as counsel for myself, a distant bystander, and possibly other bystanders.
This is not advice, but how I, simply as a Christian first, and pastor second, think through this mess, and/or need to think through particularly rough acts of injustice. If you want to know how you can pray, Scotty Smith gives a great explanation for how to pray for the families involved.
1.) Agnosticism. When suffering and injustice happen, the first response may be one of agnosticism. How can God be real and loving, and allow this to happen? It makes sense at first to think like this. It really does, particularly when injustice happens to Christians, whom claim to be alone in receiving full favor from God (Luke 2:14). However in order to be consistent with the promise of Christianity, we have to remember that a life of no suffering is not promised to us; in fact, it is very much the opposite. Jesus promises us suffering. So does the writer of Hebrews (12:7-11) and Paul in II Tim 3:12.
But Tim Keller also reminds us that if we use the existence of evil to conclude that God does not exist, we are ultimately committing intellectual suicide. Either God created us in His image and we know and can declare activity like this wrong, or we are a collection of atoms and chemicals without any way to declare this activity evil. Did precious children die or did molecules and chemicals become re-arranged? If there is no God, nor man/woman created in God’s image, we can have no ultimate standard of goodness and cannot call this act evil. And we know this is evil!
2.) God can’t control everything. This is comforting at some levels, because it makes God out to be gentle and loving and caring. He would have liked to stop these actions, but He can’t because His hands are tied. Remember Free Will? But if this is the case, then you probably should limit your prayers to things that don’t cause God to step on anyone’s free will. Not sure how that would be possible though. If God can’t stop these things, He is not a God worthy of your prayers. So we can’t go there.
3.) Protective Apathy. Now I don’t know anyone apathetic to 9/11 or this Newtown Tragedy. But sometimes I do try to distance myself from sadness. I don’t want to think about it, or guess what, I feel sad too! I honestly don’t dig sadness. Who does? But our Savior was no stranger to sadness, even entering into it. When sadness comes upon us, we don’t need to protect ourselves by simply focusing on the positives. Below are John Piper’s words from his daily advent devotional:
Many of you will feel loss this Christmas more pointedly than before. Don’t block it out. Let it come. Feel it. What is love for, if not to intensify our affections-both in life and death? But O, do not be bitter. It is tragically self-destructive to be bitter….Jesus came at Christmas time that we might have eternal life.
Running from sadness is not life. Jesus is life. Sadness about death can be good when it drives us to Him who is the Resurrection and the Life.
This injustice sucks. People are messed up. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, but there are special punishments for leading children astray (Mark 9:42). I can’t imagine what happens to those who murder children. Lanza is not in a better place.
Yet nothing short of the Final Resurrection will bring back our believing loved ones. We grieve with hope, but we still grieve.
I’m actually quite saddened as I write this. I’m ready for Jesus to come back. Today. I don’t get a vote, but I do get a prayer, found in the penultimate verse in the bible: “Come Lord Jesus.” In Him is life forever more and in Him alone is, as Rich Mullins (whose life was cut short by car accident) sang, “a hope to carry on.”