I know that so many of us are still wrestling with difficult questions as a result of the horrible tragedy that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14th. Below you can find my response that was originally published in my Saying Grace column for Fredericksburg’s Free Lance-Star newspaper. Praying that my humble words can bring comfort and hope.
Like the rest of the nation, my heart was completely broken when I heard of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School last Friday. I have spent the last week hugging my own children tight and praying for the families who will never again feel the warmth of their own little ones close to their heart. My mind cannot comprehend the horror that those 20 young children must have felt in the last minutes of their short lives.
Those of us left behind are faced with the questions of “why?”, “how can we prevent this from happening again?”, “what causes someone to commit such a horrible act?”. While there are certainly actionable answers to those questions, for a Christian the answer is both simplistic and frightening––there is evil in this world that seeks to destroy all that we hold dear.
In John 10:10 Jesus reminds us that “the thief (Satan) comes only to steal, kill and destroy.” As we glance through the pages of history, we are confronted with unimaginable acts of violence. We are so horrified by what happened at Sandy Hook because it involved young children, but unfortunately this is certainly not the first time the innocent have been slaughtered.
From the moment that Cain killed Abel, man has been killing man. Pharaoh ordered the death of baby Jewish boys in the time of Moses. Soon after Jesus’ own birth, Herod the Great ordered the killing of all young male children in the town of Bethlehem. We may be removed from these events by thousands of years, but the heartbreak of mourning parents still echoes to us throughout the centuries.
In our own recent history we find appalling acts of terror such as the Jewish Holocaust and the Armenian Genocide. The random killing of students at Columbine, Virginia Tech and Sandy Hook shakes us to our core and makes us wonder where all the good in the world has gone.
The good news is that Jesus did not just alert us to the prowling thief. In John 10:10, Jesus goes on to tells us that He has come to give us life to the full. His birth, life, death and resurrection is the hope we need as we face a scary and uncertain world.
Seven hundred years before the birth of Christ, Isaiah the prophet predicted that a child would be virgin-born as a gift to all mankind. This baby would be called Immanuel––literally “God with us”––Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace who will reign with justice and righteousness forever.
Isaiah goes on to tell us in chapter 25 that this Mighty King will come again and when He does He will “swallow up death forever. The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces.” We can look forward to a time when there will be no more tears, crying or sadness––when Christ himself will take away all of our pain and suffering and replace it with unimaginable joy.
Paul tells us in 1 Thessalonians 4:13, that the individual who has trusted Jesus as their personal Saviour mourns death, but not as those who have no hope. For death is not the end, but instead is just the beginning of eternal life.
While the sadness caused by the loss of those precious children is overwhelming, we can be comforted to know that the moment they left this earth, they found themselves in the arms of Jesus.
For those of us left behind, these words from the treasured Christmas carol, O’Come, O’Come Emmanual have renewed meaning this year:
O Come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.