This morning, twenty-seven families woke up to a world that will never be the same for them. The unspeakable horror of a murderous rampage that took the lives of twenty-six people in an elementary school has the nation reeling. And so it should. When twenty little children have their lives ripped away, sane people should be incensed and sensible people should be broken-hearted.
News accounts keep repeating the same questions: “Why did this happen? What motivated the killer? Has anyone figured out what made him do it?” When asked by a reporter what she would say to the parents of those whose children died, one mother whose child came out alive gave the only appropriate response–“There are no words at a time like this!” For a culture that insists on reasons and demands explanations, quietly grieving and simply being there for the bereaved does not seem to be enough.
Many will try to insist that gun control is the answer. Others will demand higher security in schools across the land. At a more philosophical level, people will speak to the broader issues of becoming a nation without a conscience. Still others will point out the consequences of a world view that devalues human life and denies any ultimate judgment against wickedness. All of these deserve a place in the deliberations to follow in the days ahead.
Grieving as those who have no hope. “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve, as do the rest who have no hope” (1Thessalonians 4:13). Sad as it may be, many of those arising this morning have no hope. They are devastated beyond measure because there is nothing in what they believe, how they live their lives and where they see their future that gives them any comfort. With no hope of eternal life, their loved ones are simply lost to them forever. How incredibly sad! Pray for such as these to find in this loss a reason to pursue the truth as it can only be found in Jesus Christ!
Grieving as those who have false hope. Others will be misled into thinking that they do have hope…the false notion that everyone goes to heaven when they die. Based on that deception, many people will try to build a case for a future hope that depends on wishful thinking, not the reality of a coming day when all must give an answer for their lives to the Lord. Denying a coming judgment does not make it any less certain. So for those who base their hope on a misrepresentation of what is to come, the comfort they try to find will be shallow at its best, empty at its worst.
Grieving as those who have certain hope. “He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, in order that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:12-13). Is there a way to know for certain that our hope of eternal life has been secured and that we can have life after death? Without any way to know with certainty the spiritual condition of others (since we cannot know their hearts), that which we can know is whether or not we have eternal life. Promises that we will see those we love in heaven must begin with knowing that we will be in heaven. Only Jesus Christ gives that assurance. Only He has secured a place for all who believe in His name. Therein lies our certain hope. Nothing else offers that kind of confident assurance.
So we who know Christ grieve, but not as those who have no hope, or those who have a false hope. As the hymn says, “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name…On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground in sinking sand.”
Pray for the families who suffered such devastating loss. Ask the Lord to awaken in them a longing to find life that lasts forever, the kind that cannot be stolen by the hands of an evil gunman. Plead with the Lord that their grief turns to the longings of a wounded heart, a contrite heart which seeks help and hope in Christ; and cry for them not to harden their hearts in desperate anger and shake their fists at the God who wants to reach out to them with compassion and love. Who can understand better than He? His Son was murdered by evil men also! May we all turn to Him and grieve as those who have hope in Him alone!