Once again, hearts are broken with news of the shooting tragedy in Newtown, CT. The senselessness of it. The inevitable question why? The conflicted feelings of hate, love, outrage, compassion, hurt, and compassion.
How does one make sense of it? We can't, not really. The brokenness and emptiness that gnaws at the heart of families who lost children outstrips words and attempts to console or explain. Sadly, some will seize the event as a platform to clamor for change, seek blame, pontificate, or sensationalize. But tragedies such as this bring opportunity for reflection and compassion.
As with previous shooting tragedies, many Christian believers and leaders mobilize to pray and bring comfort to the victims and families of the community, and the students and staff of the school. This outreach of love and empathy will be overlooked by the media for the most part. This is a good thing, so it will not be spotlighted and sensationalized. The families and community will know and that's what matters.
Words fall woefully short in tragic times, so actions and presence must take their place. As a young pastor, I learned early on that the most valuable thing I could offer was practical assistance and a commitment to be present as needed, often in silence.
I saw how valuable those simple things were, as I watched family and friends and people in the church move into action with meals, practical help and silent comfort. My role was to assist with needed arrangements, pray, and console with silent presence, and a simple touch of compassion when appropriate.
Being at the side of parents who lose children in tragic accidents and events brings a helpless feeling, even though we want to sooth their ache. Time doesn't heal all hurts, but as time passes the ache can become endurable.
My wife and I have been on the receiving end of compassion after a senseless loss of life. We went through the shock, the sadness, the questions, and vacuous sense of loss. Yet we experienced immense consolation from God and the many who reached out to us with compassion.
Whenever I have the responsibility and privilege of leading a funeral or memorial service, I see it as a time of reflection and assessment. Not just for those attending the service, but for myself as well.
Life is fragile, very fragile. Death is an enemy, a cruel indifferent enemy. Hope is a necessity in times of tragedy and needs to be genuine. Memories aren't what's left over, but treasures to be valued. Our whole life is a dynamic collection of memories, experiences, and relationships.
Those who were killed, especially the young children, were precious living beings cut off from life in a violent manner. No words remove the sting or explain the tragedy. We are at a loss, and as our president expressed, "Our hearts are broken."
This event may indeed be indicative of a cultural sickness of our nation's brokenness and lostness. But it's more of a worldwide human reality. Horrific tragedies take place throughout the world every day, but go unnoticed except by those immediately affected.
What hope is there to heal this brokenness? Is there a resolution to this vast lostness? Yes indeed, but it requires humility and trust to embrace it.
Is God just standing by watching it all take place while we struggle with such tragedies? No. He also has known the loss of a Son who was murdered unjustly, and He is able to relate to each of us personally (Hebrews 2:9-10, 14-18). God is love (1 John 4:16). God is merciful and compassionate (Heb 4:15-16).
God has made a way to escape the madness of a world that seems bent on destruction (Matthew 11:28-30). And He has and will resolve all the senseless tragedies and questions of life on this earth for those who trust in Him. One day it will make sense, until then we move forward by faith—our trust in His faithfulness.
And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Now God’s presence is with people, and he will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them and will be their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death, sadness, crying, or pain, because all the old ways are gone.” The One who was sitting on the throne said, “Look! I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this, because these words are true and can be trusted.” (Revelation 21:3-5 NCV)