Facing Senseless Tragedy

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Facing Senseless Tragedy

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It was a deadly December in 2012. First a shopping mall attack outside Portland, Oregon, left two shoppers randomly murdered. And then came the horrific lone killer attack on Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Twenty young children, six teachers and school staff members plus the killer's mother earlier that morning were murdered in cold blood. Both instances ended with the killers taking their own lives.

What incredibly heartrending and agonizingly sad disasters! The future hope of families extinguished in a moment. Mothers and wives—teachers dying while heroically trying to save the children's lives.

How do you make sense of senselessness? How do you process the grief? Why did a loving God allow this or any similar tragedy? And what can you personally do to shield yourself and your family from the deadly and evil spirit that triggered these terrible events?

Who or what's to blame?

At issue is the human heart—the selfish nature of man— far more than the weapons used to express that nature. People do not want to face the evil that lurks in the human heart.

Shortly before the Sandy Hook tragedy, a Chinese man carried out a knife attack, injuring an elderly lady and 22 children in the Chenpeng Village Primary School in the Henan Province—thankfully none of those victims died. There had been six similar attacks in a seven-month stretch in 2010 in China, and the most recent was in August 2012. Those deadly attacks killed almost 20 and injured 50 children and adults.

Selfish, sinful human nature is to blame. "For the mind-set of the flesh is hostile to God because it does not submit itself to God's law, for it is unable to do so" (Romans 8:7, Holman Christian Standard Bible). And "the works of the flesh are evident, which are . . . hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders . . ." (Galatians 5:19-21). Indeed, the human heart "is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?" (Jeremiah 17:9).

But we must realize that the human heart is under a dark influence in defiance of God.

What would Jesus say?

God is working out a great plan that includes you as much as it will include those young lives ended in innocent childhood. From the time of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, man has chosen to reject God's supreme leadership and to follow instead the dark and deadly influence of Satan the devil. And yes, that fallen angel—also called a demon—does exist no matter what the evolutionist intelligentsia tells you. Jesus described the devil, stating: "He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it" (John 8:44).

Since humanity's wrong choice from the outset, the world has been cut off from God's direct rule. And over the course of history, people are learning the lessons of what that means—being subject now to Satan, to wrongdoers under his evil influence, to their own limited and clouded reasoning, and to the vagaries of time and chance.

Senseless tragedies and disasters happened when Jesus walked the earth too—and He cited two examples to make an important point. For some reason, possibly a demonstration of severity to maintain political order, the Roman governor Pontius Pilate had a group of people from Galilee (where Jesus grew up) killed by his soldiers at the Temple Mount while they were offering sacrifices. Later a tower near the pool of Siloam in Jerusalem fell, killing 18 people.

Rather like a newscaster of His day, Jesus told His listeners how both events applied to them. He also explained that those who died were no worse than others—they didn't specifically deserve their suffering and deaths. The point of His commentary provides both hope and warning to each of us: "but unless you repent you will all likewise perish" (Luke 13:1-5).

The hope Jesus held out was repeated again and again during His ministry—the future coming of the Kingdom of God, when at His return He will take over the rule of the entire planet and bring peace and safety to all at last. And with repentance, turning from our former ways and fully embracing God's way of life, we can be part of His Kingdom and family forever. For now, we look to God for guidance through the darkness of the present age, while we eagerly anticipate the age to come.

Further thoughts going forward

Why did the young adult killer in Connecticut wantonly murder all those children and adults in Sandy Hook? His motives are unfolding as of this writing. The lessons for today's teens and young adults are both chilling and profound—and they are totally unsurprising. Here are some takeaway points.

Love life—especially young life. America has exterminated some 60 million babies before they were born in tragic, though "legalized" abortions—still about 3,000 per day. Think about it. The militancy of the abortion rights movement has sadly devalued in the public conscience the lives of young children. Is it any wonder, then, that unbalanced and evil-hearted people so often vent their ungodly anger on children?!

God hates that. The same movement occurred in ancient Israel and Judah. Parents offered some of their children to pagan gods—especially one called Molech. His bronze statue was heated with a fire inside and the little one was placed in his red-hot arms to die screaming in pain. Drums (tophet in Hebrew) were beaten to drown out the screams. In fact, the main place this occurred was a place in the valley just south of Jerusalem called "Tophet." See Jeremiah 7:28-34 to read how much God despised the devaluing of the lives of children. He destroyed the nation because of that and sins like it.

Be a friend—not a loner. The killer was described repeatedly as a loner. Apparently he had some friends who were of similar ilk. Some reports described him as "goth," referring to the Goth subculture, which focuses too much on darkness and death. That unhealthy preoccupation can drain one's spiritual and emotional reserves to resist self-destruction and evil.

This kind of loner thinking is typically unbalanced and usually very selfishly oriented—none of which you want to be. Jesus had friends, many of whom were His disciples. The value of good friends (who will be painfully honest if needed) is praised throughout the Bible. "He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will be destroyed" (Proverbs 13:20).

Violent video games are your enemy! Sadly, the Sandy Hook perpetrator fits a predictable pattern of loners who mentally feed on darkness and death through increasingly amoral and graphically violent video games. University and other research over the last 15 to 20 years has shown that violent video gaming conditions the mind much like the military conditions young men as soldiers to kill. However, video games don't instill the mental discipline that military training at least provides.

The title of an article in Psychology Today magazine asked the question, "Do Violent Video Games Increase Aggression?" After listing the many reasons why, the author, a psychology professor, concluded: "In summary, although they are not the only factor that increases aggression, violent video games do have a significant effect on aggression" (Brad Bushman, Jan. 27, 2012).

The "V" in vertical thinking does not stand for "violent." God's way is the way of genuine outgoing concern for others—not for the graphically mocked killing of others which can literally bleed into real life. Limit video gaming in your life, and avoid violent gaming entirely. Another proverb conveys the wisdom: "As he thinks in his heart, so is he" (Proverbs 23:7). Analyze how you are thinking.

Aftermath of tragedy

We mourn and cry for little lives lost, futures destroyed, families in agonizing sadness. But God has a better day for even the victims of this evil crime and sin. Those children and their teachers will live again—in safety, when the Kingdom of God rules the world. (To understand more about why God allows such terrible events to happen now, be sure to read our online Bible study aid Why Does God Allow Suffering? ).

But what for us? How will we respond, right now in our lives? To summarize Jesus Christ's plea for life and peace: Repent or perish! But He wants us to repent—to change our minds and choose life and love and joy.