Hard Questions: What Is the "Right" Response to this Tragedy?
Friday (December 14, 2012) I was really struggling with my reaction to the Sandy Hook massacre in Connecticut. There was so much emotional shock and fervor being poured out by many, and yet I found myself moved and dismayed, but not as shocked and grief-stricken as I apparently “should have been”. I felt like I was hardhearted and I was getting those “What’s wrong with me?” thoughts. I also felt frustrated and like something was wrong with the whole picture. Some of it I could vaguely discern, but it was still muddled in my mind.
Then the Lord used a friend’s post on Facebook to help clarify things for me. She had shared something a pastor wrote, and through that and my subsequent chat with her the Lord helped me sort some things out. I was also somewhat relieved to find out that she had had similar feelings to mine.
In the first place, this was a horrible event and a just cause for sadness and much prayer. The sorrow of the parents who have lost children and children who have lost parents is grievous and deserves compassion. Most of all we should pray that precious souls will come to salvation through Jesus Christ because of this dreadful event. Nothing is wasted with God and He can surely bring glory to Himself through this. Psalms 76:10 Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee: the remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain.
The Lord alone can give these people the depth of comfort which they need, and that through His Son. As the pastor expressed it, God “is in control; He is love; and He knows what He is doing, even when we do not. He faced worse than this Himself in the murder/execution of His Beloved Son; by faith in His Word, we can trust Him to justly deal with everyone.” He is the God of all comfort to those who believe and through the preaching of the Gospel this comfort can come to others also.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4 Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.
But beyond that there was so much that was disturbing to me.
But, more than that, when I stop to think back over history, this kind of thing has happened in this land for hundreds (likely thousands) of years. This kind of massacre is not much different than the types that occurred long ago between Indian tribes and later with the massacres of white settlers. The massacres of Indians by the whites falls into the same category. Gangland killings, stage and train robberies, bank robberies, the national guard firing on students at Kent State (1970), the BATF and others attacking private citizens at the Branch Davidian compound, and so many more. If there are devils involved, as it seems quite likely, they do not die when their "host" dies. They move on to some other individual or group and try again. Biblically and historically we know that unclean spirits have varying "skills". It will happen again as it has for centuries. The evil that has always existed combined with the terrible lack of a healthy fear of God has opened this society up to even more of this. The same thing is wrong with them today as has been wrong since Cain slew Able.
Psalms 36:1-4 The transgression of the wicked saith within my heart, that there is no fear of God before his eyes. For he flattereth himself in his own eyes, until his iniquity be found to be hateful. The words of his mouth are iniquity and deceit: he hath left off to be wise, and to do good. He deviseth mischief upon his bed; he setteth himself in a way that is not good; he abhorreth not evil.
Romans 3:13-18 Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: Their feet are swift to shed blood: Destruction and misery are in their ways: And the way of peace have they not known: There is no fear of God before their eyes.
Another aspect that bothers me about these events is the almost carnival side-show aspect. I personally find it disturbing that people are so drawn to the macabre, voyeuristic type broadcasting that accompanies tragedies and natural disasters these days. I can certainly see the opportunity for prayer, but I tend to feel we were better off in some respects when these things weren’t dumped on us as “play-by-play” media feasting events. I have participated in it myself at times (Hurricane Katrina specifically), but I feel more and more that we need to be careful how we enter into such things. For one thing, I see this “live at the scene” reporting as being very significant to the fulfillment of end times events. We now know how the whole world will see and rejoice over the death of the two prophets in Revelation 11:9-10. And they of the people and kindreds and tongues and nations shall see their dead bodies three days and an half, and shall not suffer their dead bodies to be put in graves. And they that dwell upon the earth shall rejoice over them, and make merry, and shall send gifts one to another; because these two prophets tormented them that dwelt on the earth. For my own part, I don’t want to be sucked into that mentality.
But besides all that, who would like to be a parent of one of those children who died and first hear about the shooting through the news media or through someone who saw "the news", rather than having someone tell them in compassion? It seems horrible to me. And for my own part, if I were the mother of a child who survived, I would be sick and disgusted at having my poor baby’s grief and distress broadcast for millions to gape at. Just sayin’…
Then there is the whole issue of the strong feelings that are poured out over these deaths.
It is generally not considered normal to like death. It is the last enemy that will be destroyed; 1 Corinthians 15:26, The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. I certainly have no desire to belittle those who spent many tears over this tragedy. But, my friend and I couldn’t help feeling a level of injustice in the fact that these children were mourned and bewailed so much while the children in the Middle East that have died and been maimed by the U.S. military are dismissed as "necessary casualties". There is something very wrong with that.
And, that isn’t even to mention the 40 million plus abortions worldwide that have taken place so far this year, and the approximately 150,000 deaths daily worldwide. I am not trying to diminish the deaths of the Connecticut children and teachers. What I want to know is if it’s more important when it happens in the United States than in other countries, and if the man who committed this crime is worse than the men who have been careless with the lives of children in the Middle East? If so, something is seriously wrong with your view of God’s justice towards little ones!
When Jonah was angry at God for not destroying Nineveh, God rebuked him for not having mercy upon the children and cattle there: Jonah 4:9-11 And God said to Jonah, Doest thou well to be angry for the gourd? And he said, I do well to be angry, even unto death. Then said the LORD, Thou hast had pity on the gourd, for the which thou hast not laboured, neither madest it grow; which came up in a night, and perished in a night: And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle? Do you think that God overlooks the destruction of children and cattle (the children’s food) because the U.S. is waging a “war on terrorism”?
My friend was also disgusted with the crocodile tears of the leader of the present administration. Some people might be offended at that, but when one considers that this man has allowed or ordered the use of drones and other weapons to kill innocent people, including children, it gives one pause to consider. Even more than that, it’s a bit hard to believe the tears of a man over the death of little children he doesn’t even know in the face of the fact that he approves of partial birth abortion. If his tears were “for real” he is still an extreme hypocrite!
Psalms 50:19, 21-23 Thou givest thy mouth to evil, and thy tongue frameth deceit…These things hast thou done, and I kept silence; thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself: but I will reprove thee, and set them in order before thine eyes. Now consider this, ye that forget God, lest I tear you in pieces, and there be none to deliver. Whoso offereth praise glorifieth me: and to him that ordereth his conversation aright will I shew the salvation of God.
Having already said that I don’t desire to belittle those who shed many tears, I also want to mention the issue of allowing ourselves to give way to wild and sweeping emotions. Emotions are not evil in and of themselves, but how quickly we can be carried away by them! Having dealt for more than 12 years now with an anxiety disorder there are a few things I have learned. Generally speaking, I have found that when other people are reacting to a thing in an extreme, overly dramatic, uncontrolled, or panicky way, it is in my best interests to try to rein in my feelings and not allow myself to run with them to the same excess. A reader expressed this very well recently to me on another subject, but it rang a bell in my mind and is helping me connect more dots, so to speak. She said that the Lord has showed her (regarding a specific situation) that she needed to “Be still, and know that I am God…” Psalm 46:10. The object is not some empty-minded, contemplative prayer from the monastics. It is to be still and let Him be God, let Him be right, let Him take care of it; just trust and know that what He hath spoken He will do. I am only beginning to get my mind around this concept, but I know that if we would just do this we would spare ourselves so much trouble and care in this life!
Psalms 37:7-9 Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for him: fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass. Cease from anger, and forsake wrath: fret not thyself in any wise to do evil. For evildoers shall be cut off: but those that wait upon the LORD, they shall inherit the earth.
Do you realize that God allowed this debacle to happen? Do you realize that He could have stopped it? These are not things that we like to consider. None of us can offer reasons for "the why" of it. My point in bringing them up is to ask this – Do we really and truly believe that God is in control of all things? Do we believe that He can use all things to fulfill His sovereign will and glorify Himself?
Daniel 4:35 And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?
For my own part, I believe that children under the age of accountability go to heaven when they die, so for the children at least I have no fear. (My heart is much more burdened for the children that survived and the trauma they must deal with.) The adults were accountable and if any were saved they went to be with their Lord. But, what if, through this horrible event, God is able to soften hard hearts and bring some lost and dying souls unto Himself through faith in Jesus Christ? Would He not then get the glory even through the tragedy of it all?
Hebrews 2:9-10 But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man. For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.
There are other reasons that the Lord might have for allowing this event to occur as well. Things that we, in our human limitations, might not even understand.
The wickedness of such an event can also cause people to seek someone to blame. It's a rather natural response. Those who don’t want to blame God Himself for allowing it, will focus on the other “culprits”. Of course, the murderer himself is a prime candidate for wrath and condemnation. Guns and gun owners will be blamed and accused, while it is conveniently ignored that the children and teachers were in a “gun-free” zone and therefore were supposedly “safe” (despite the inability to defend themselves from lawbreakers of murderous intent, who have existed since Cain). Some of us feel that there are undoubtedly devils involved in such situations. The government and society at large are blamed too. Conservatives and Christians blame them for liberalism and for the Godlessness that is encouraged and tolerated.
Some people would excuse the murderer on the grounds of mental insanity and blame society for not providing the man with better healthcare at a better cost. King Saul in the Old Testament led his men all over Israel and drew many people into his efforts to kill David and his men. By today's standards he would have absolutely been let off as "mentally insane". I would like to point out that God didn't let Saul off for that even though he was mentally deranged, and he suffered the consequences of his sin.
The thing we all need to consider is the temptation to climb up into the “holier than thou chair”, or even worse, into the “seat of judgment”, and to make ourselves seem better than we are. It is always convenient for people to have some scapegoat to beat when they don’t want to consider the magnitude of their own sinfulness. But for the grace and merciful restraint of God Almighty, none of us would be better than that man. In fact, we aren’t anyway. The Lord told us in 1 John 3:15, Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him. That is a hard saying! If it were not for the regenerating power of Jesus Christ we would all be murderers and killers by God’s standard. We need to think on this event with a spirit of humility before the holy and righteous Judge of all. Every one of us sins every day against the Lord God, and we will all give account of ourselves before God. Romans 14:11-12 For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.
Rather than repeat a lot of what I already wrote, I will simply ask this question, "How should we live in light of these things?"
Titus 2:11-15 For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee.
Proverbs 21:31 The horse is prepared against the day of battle: but safety is of the LORD.
Philippians 4:5-7 Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.