On December 14th, a most horrific tragedy occurred in Newtown, Connecticut. Twenty-eight people lost their lives in a shooting at Sandy Hook elementary school – twenty of them being the age of 6 or 7.
As I read countless reports of the tragedy, and hear testimonies of parents and teachers who survived the shooting or lost a beloved child, my heart continually breaks. I cannot begin to relate to the pain, hurt and sorrow they are experiencing. The act is utterly devastating, and will forever haunt the lives of those directly affected by the crime.
Amidst the thousands of news reports, Facebook statuses and Tweets, mourning the loss of these lives, there is a recurring question looming in the hearts of Christians and non-Christians alike: How could God let this happen?
In the face of the question of suffering, the initial response of Christians is that suffering is necessary so that we might grow from our weaknesses, or something pious such as this. While I do not deny the eternal merit in enduring our sufferings humbly – in fact, this message is not to be forgotten in this event – I will not for a moment try to reduce the murder and heartache of the shooting to the growing pains of daily life. Nor can we heartlessly say that God took their lives to prove a point. From our standpoint, this evil is intolerable, gratuitous and excessive. A situation such as this requires a deeper reflection and a much more profound reaction.
Though it is difficult, and bluntly impossible, to see any rational purpose in this act of violence, this does not mean that we must abandon God, nor despair of His goodness or His power. In fact, it should move us to cling to Him all the more.
In these seemingly God-forsaken situations and times of overwhelming sadness, His presence is our only refuge from the storm. Only in God can we find peace, assurance and comfort. Abandoning God in our times of suffering only plunges us further into the abyss of darkness, as we abandon Goodness Himself. This does not mean we cannot grieve, mourn, or even have righteous anger about such injustices. God wants to hear the deepest cries of our heart, as every prayer, in joy and in sorrow, is an affirmation of our trust in Him.
Although it can be the default reaction of many people, we cannot despair of God’s eternal plan by assuming He maliciously inflicts evil upon society. Though evil exists in our world, God will always, always, bring good out of the evil that occurs. But let me be clear: this does not justify evil actions. Evil will always remain evil and should be eradicated at all costs. But we can find hope in our merciful God that He will draw infinite goodness out of the sin our world commits.
At the foot of the Cross, similar sentiments were sneered, as the soldiers taunted God’s power in saving His own Son from the Cross (Matthew 27:43). But even as His Son suffered and cried in anguish to Him on the Cross, God our Father let His own Son be tortured and crucified by our sins. Though we now have a glimpse of the glory in the Cross of Christ, the acts of crucifixion, scourging and torture will always remain intolerable evils.
Today, this Cross is what gives us hope in the horrifying event of the Connecticut shooting. It is by this Cross that the teachers were given the grace to be brave and risk their lives for their students. It is by this Cross that the parents have forgiven the shooter. It is by this Cross that friends and family can console each other in this time of sorrow.
But most importantly, it is by this very Cross that the children who lost their lives will be spending this Christmas, and all eternity, with our ever-loving, ever-merciful, and all-peaceful God.
This Christmas, let us keep in our heartfelt prayers the families of those who lost their lives in the shooting. Let us pray for all those who are mourning this Christmas, that they find peace and comfort in the Author of Life Himself. Finally, let us find hope in our God who sent His Son to assume our imperfect humanity, who taught us how to Love and how to forgive, and who gave His life on the Cross so that we may one day eternally join Him in paradise.