I’m not sure why I feel the need to hear every detail of every horrible tragedy, why I glue myself to CNN waiting on baited breath to hear the particulars of why, how and what next, and why I have to discuss it at length with those around me. And I’m not sure why, in the wake of the Connecticut shooting I cannot tear my thoughts away from those sweet angels and their grieving families even for an instant. I’m not sure if it’s healthy, normal, necessary or justified. Some say the media sensationalizes tragedies such as this. I wouldn’t disagree. Yet still I can’t seem to turn off the television. And so, in nothing more than mere curiosity, I pose this question to myself and ask for a bit of guidance from above.
Perhaps in my anger I want to ensure that justice somehow prevails. Or on a smaller scale, that we, as a country, learn some grand lesson, affect some sort of change, or alter the course of future tragedies. Perhaps I, as a mother of two small children myself, feel that if I can grieve just a little bit more it would somehow lessen the unbearable suffering of the ones who lost their babies. Let’s be honest, I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to answer the question of why and so it may be more realistic to tackle the question of where. Where is God in a horrific tragedy like the massacre of 20 innocent first graders in Newtown, Connecticut and seven other innocent souls? I think if I can answer this question in a way that satisfies my restless soul, I may be able to sleep for an hour or two tonight.
It’s funny how I always tend to condense my feelings into four simple words. Every diatribe on suffering and loss begins with, “There are no words.” But the truth is there ARE words. There are words of anger, bitterness and frustration, though they most likely won’t surface until later in the grieving process. There are words of agony, torment and anguish. And though it’s tough to admit, there may even be words of desperation and hopelessness. “How can I go on? Can I go on?” I can only hope those words are met with quiet whispers from our Heavenly Father that gently offer solace and hope. In Psalm 22:24 we are reminded that “...he has not despised or disdained the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help.” There are words to describe how most of us view the shooter, none of which I can put down on paper. But if I’m honest with myself and can see beyond the anger to the word of God I cling to in these times, perhaps I can find some words of grace and understanding to deal with those. The reality is that even the most heinous and unimaginable crimes can be met with mercy and forgiveness in the Heavenly courts.
The truth is that when tragedy strikes, God is right there in the middle of it. We need only to call His name and open our eyes. And when we, in our finite, weakened state cannot find the words, it is then that He speaks to us and through us. 2 Corinthians 4:8-11 encourages us, “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair, persecuted, but not forsaken, struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our mortal flesh.”
So I must say that has always been one of my favorite scriptures, because I love the jars of clay analogy. It’s true, when we are cracked and broken, the light of Jesus shines through, but we have to choose to allow it to do so and that’s not always easy. As I typed that verse, the line “not driven to despair” really struck me, because as a mommy it is so easy for me to be driven to despair. When the innocence of children can be snatched in an instant, when I no longer feel safe sending my babies to school and I’m faced with the grim reality that the two sleeping darlings in the next room could easily have been among the 20 precious angels who lost their lives yesterday, when the fear and anxiety wells up within me to the point that I can barely breathe, despair seems to be the only emotion that fits. And I suppose the only way I can answer back is to trust in the divinity of a God who is bigger than my fleeting emotions, bigger than the ensuing debate over gun control, bigger than our need to understand and most certainly big enough to fill the hole that’s left behind. So as I grapple with the “Why” and “How” and “What Now?” and cannot help but picture the faces of those sweet, sweet angels, I’ll remind myself that my God lost a child also and did it willingly, for me.
We will rightly and eternally mourn the loss of all the victims. We will pray as a nation for the ones they left behind, for healing, for comfort, and for sweet memories to forever fill the halls of their homes. And as their mommies and daddies justifiably long for one last smile as they arrive home from school, their Heavenly Father will now greet them at the door. And I imagine as they gaze upon His lovely face, bursting at the seams they will excitedly announce, “Hi Daddy, I’m home!” And they are now...home in His presence, home in His tender embrace, home in His kingdom eternally, and home forever in our hearts.