I do not pretend to understand the depth of grief experienced by those who lost loved ones in the Sandy Hook tragedy. Though I have lost very close relatives to death and have 4 children in Heaven due to miscarriages, these losses are different and the grieving process has been of a different sort.
I have heard and read many words of condolence from the media coverage, as well as personal correspondence sent in, literally, from all around the globe. The sheer volume of support for our community has been astounding over these past couple of weeks. I personally have friends from London, South Africa, Croatia and many other countries who are praying for us. My church has received hundreds of emails mentioning prayer support. For all of this, my church is thankful.
It has been one month since the shooting, and the main lesson I have come away with is simply this; the only ground for hope in tragedy has to be the unalterable words of Scripture. After all, he is the creator and sustainer of life, and we should be making much of what He has said about hope in light of eternity.
Many words have been spoken to address the physical plight that our community has wrestled with, and I”m thankful for that. But to address only the material part of people is to give a superficial answer to humans that consists of body and no soul. This tragedy certainly had a spiritual dynamic to it.
But God has told us how to engage such grief. The Father Himself experienced the most horrific tragedy to ever occur on earth; the torture and murder of His Son, by His predetermined plan (Acts 2:23) and for the accomplishment of man’s redemption from sin, to all who would turn to Him. The Father gave His Son (Jn 3:16) to be bruised for our transgressions (Isa 53:5). The worse tragedy ever…crucifying the Lord of glory, the sinless One is, in fact, the greatest gift ever given, as it provides the grounds for man to be reconciled to God. The One who conquered the grave and took the sting out of death (1 Cor 15) is the One who provides a living hope to all who are born again into His family (1 Pet 1:3). For those who have turned from their sin and placed their faith in Christ alone, gain an eternal inheritance in heaven; a hope that is imperishable, undefiled, and untarnished (1 Pet 1:4).
The scripture teaches that children who die are in the presence of the Lord. The most serious question to be posed is “Will you join them, by placing your faith in Christ alone?” I’m not talking about relying on your inherent goodness, for that is not how anyone gets to heaven. People are not born neutral towards God, and don’t even seek Him (Rom 3:10-11). Our hearts are deceitful and desperately wicked (Jer 17:9) and even our thoughts are evil (Gen 6:5). It’s not that we are all as bad as we can be, but everything we do is tainted by sin. Even a lack of loving God perfectly is a transgression of God’s holy standard (Deut 6:5). Whether it be the sin of murder or the sin of gossip, every sin will be judged by God, the judge of all people (Eccles 3:17).
As we think about this tragedy in Sandy Hook, we must remember it is a picture of what the wicked heart of man can accomplish. It is one of many slaughters that man has accomplished throughout human history. Whether it be the infanticide by Herod, of all male children two-years-old and below, when Jesus Christ robed Himself in human flesh (Matt 2:16), or the first murder to be recorded in the Bible, in which Cain killed Abel (Gen 4:8), tragedy and trouble are part and parcel to the human experience (Job 5:7; 14:1). Though politicians and media want to make the issue about gun control, it’s not about the guns. Whether man uses a gun, a club, or a spear, he is being used as a tool for Satan, who was a murderer from the beginning (Jn 8:44). There are greater things at work in the world, in which there is a spiritual war (Eph 6:12) in effect. The wicked heart of man is the root issue. Though satan prowls about, seeking to devour man (1 Pet 5:8), man’s lust and sin is what brings forth death (Jas 1:13-15).
This tragic event was about sin. Though it was not about specific sins of individuals, it was a matter, ultimately, of sin. It is the byproduct of living in a fallen world (Gen 3) in which man sinned against His Creator, God cursed His creation (Gen 3:14ff.), and cast Lucifer down. This event which brought about many deaths is a reminder to us that life is short; but a vapor (Jas 4:14) and then comes death, and after that, judgment (Heb 9:27). So are you prepared? Do you have hope that exists in this life and passes beyond, into eternity? All of creation and your own conscience testify to you of God’s existence. Have you run to Him for mercy so that you need not fear His hand of judgment and wrath? God’s special and tender care was extended to the children of this tragedy because they had not hardened their hearts in sin. Yet once you are old enough to comprehend the Gospel, you are accountable to respond in faith and obedience. Have you responded in that manner? Christ’s atoning work covered their sin, have you pled with Him to cover yours as well?
There will be more tragedies in the future, possibly worse and more devastating. We will continue to face tragedies until the Prince of Peace comes and wipes away every tear and does away with death (Rev 21:4).
Let’s learn from the tragedy and be changed. A similar event occurred in Jesus’ day, in which several people were slaughtered. And Jesus’ stark challenge was, “unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Lk 13:1-5). We are all going to die. Some of us may face untimely deaths, but the question remains, “Have you repented of your sin and embraced Christ alone for your salvation?” Have you readied yourself for death, an appointment none of us will miss (Heb 9:27)?
Such horrendous evil as what we experienced can only be answered in the cross of Jesus Christ. He was the innocent One slain for us guilty sinners. Please turn to Him and be saved from your sin. To know Him is to experience life more abundantly (Jn 10:10), as He conquered our greatest enemy, death itself (1 Cor 15:25).
This tragedy has succeeded in solidifying in my mind the need to appeal to people to come to faith in Christ. We should strive to call others to consider these truths, while longing for the day that the Lord will return, and sickness, sadness, and pain shall be no more.