Trying to Come to Grips with the Tragedy at Sandy Hook

There is no way to fully explain the heinous and tragic events that took place last Friday at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. I cannot understand how anyone could massacre people, much less innocent children. Since hearing the news, my emotions have been a whirlwind of anger, sadness, grief, confusion, vengeance and horror. I cannot begin to understand the feelings of parents, grandparents, siblings, nieces and nephews, classmates, spouses, children, colleagues, neighbors and community members. The pain of this horrific event will linger a long, long time.

There are, however, some truths that an event such as this reveals.

It is important to remember that ultimately this is the work of the evil one through a human being. The evil one hates God and thus anything precious to God. Scripture tells us that all people are precious to God, especially children. Therefore, the evil one continues to do everything possible to destroy lives, including children. This is an act that strikes into the very heart of God as much if more than into ours.

These events also remind us of the evil that lurks in the hearts of human beings. We are sinful people—self-absorbed and self-centered. When trauma and mental illness are added, we become weapons of the evil one for destruction, pain, and suffering. It is sobering to think about the pain human beings are capable of causing other human beings.

It is also imperative for us to remember that it is precisely because of our sin and the painful consequences of our behavior that Jesus is born into the world. Paul tells us that it is while we were yet sinners that Jesus died for us (Romans 5:6-8). It’s precisely because of the pain that we inflict on one another that Jesus is born: the angel tells Joseph that Jesus will save his people from their sins (Matthew 1:21). And it’s because of our sin that causes pain for ourselves and others that Jesus is not only born into the world but is murdered despite his innocence of any sin. Jesus isn’t our Savior wearing a haz-mat suit; he is our savior taking on flesh and bone and all of the indignity, frailty, pain, and weakness of humanity. Jesus steps right into the painful, heinous, confusing, horrible morass of human life for the express purpose of redeeming us from ourselves.

In his address at theNewtownHigh Schoolauditorium, President Obama mentioned that this is the fourth time in his presidency that he has had to make one of these speeches, comfort grieving families, try to help the nation come to grips with another senseless tragedy and something has to be done. Over the course of the past week an abundant array of ideas has been proposed for fixing this problem. Each of them has value and has the potential to help. The only answer, however, that has any chance of bringing about change is the answer that brings us back to the manger, that opens our eyes to the presence and saving grace of Jesus Christ. The only answer is Christ, which makes the timing of this tragedy so near Christmas a deeper reason to grieve and a greater reason to hope.

We wish that the coming of Christ eliminated all of life’s painful moments. We wish that we were exempt from heinous crimes against innocent people, especially children. But while we live in a fallen, broken world, we will continue to deal with pain, injustice, suffering and sorrow; we do not, however, have to work our way through it alone. God is with us. We are confident that God is present with those who are grieving the pain and loss of this terrible tragedy just as he is with all of us in every moment—tragedy or celebration. God has already begun his powerful work of healing through Christ who is born into this world to take upon himself our pain, our suffering, our death and to make all things new through his grace.