"In the Face of Tragedy."
May 26, 2022, 1:05 PM

This last week there was a school shooting in a small community in Texas. Nineteen children and two adults were killed by a gunman. It is heartbreaking. When I read the headline, I could hardly believe what I was reading. Too many emotions ran through my mind simultaneously. Anger, frustration, confusion, anguish, and many others flew through me. I also felt helpless. I think this is something that many of us feel in times of tragedy. We feel like there is nothing we can do, especially when those who are hurting are so far away.

As we look at the world around us, it doesn’t take long for us to see the world trying to find someone to blame. Tragedies like this get politicized very quickly with each side blaming the policies of the other side. Comments on social media become vitriolic and hateful. Words like “thoughts and prayers” quite frankly don’t seem to be a strong enough response. Who is to blame and where do go from here? What do we do?

First, I believe we need to understand the cause of this act. I don’t know who the shooter was. What we do know is that at the core of this tragedy is sin. Sin is a word that is no longer acceptable in conversation with most people. Even some Christians say that we need to stop using the word sin. The reality is that if we throw away the concept of sin, we will never make sense of tragedies and events like this shooting. Sin destroys God’s creation and His desire for the world. God created a world for the sustaining of life. Sin wants to destroy life. Sin devalues life. Sin breaks our relationship with God, and it breaks our relationship with other humans. Sin invades every aspect of our life. Sin drove that young man to that evil act in that school. Sin manifested itself in hate and a complete disregard for life. Non-Christian worldviews are not equipped to make sense of tragedies like this. They can’t unless they admit that human beings are sinful and are capable of great destruction.

Second, prayer is our foundation in the face of tragedy. I know that prayers may seem ineffective in times like this, but prayer is a gift from God that is effective. James 5:16 tells us, “The prayer of a righteous person is very powerful in its effect.” Our prayers are effective because of who we pray to. God is powerful and because we are praying to Him, our prayers are effective as well. The non-believing world around us will mock our prayers, mock our God, and will not see God’s work in this world. They won’t see and they can’t see it without faith. For those of us who believe in Christ, we will see God working in powerful ways. Remember that one of the main ways that God work in this world is through His people. God often answers prayers through the work of His people.

And that brings me to my final point for this devotional. Our first response to tragedy should be prayer. But we are capable of a lot more than we think we are. After we pray, we should seek ways to work. We know that we can send financial gifts to cover funerals and rebuilding. We know that we can send physical goods to war torn areas like Ukraine. But some of our main work in light of tragedy is in our homes. Parents, raise your children to understand how to identify and resist sin’s temptations in their life. Teach your children the value of human life. Teach them to work for the good of those around them. Root them in Scripture so that the love of God and the love of neighbor is foundational for all they do. Parents, hug your kids extra hard tonight and remember that they are a gift from the Lord.

As a congregation we can work in our neighborhoods to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ. There are many people living without any hope. We know that the only hope this world has is in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. We know that now, yes, even now, God is working in this world to bring it closer to the day when all things will be renewed and all evil, sin, and death will be defeated completely and be gone forever. Our ultimate hope is not found in this world, but in the Creator of this world who has promised to renew it (Revelation 21-22). The answers that people are looking for are not found in government leaders or in government policies, the answer and the hope they are looking for is Jesus Christ.

Pray for the families that are in grief. Pray that they are comforted by the God of all comfort. Work for the good of those around you. Proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the Light of the World, and there are so many of our neighbors who live in darkness who need to see the light of Jesus shining in their lives. Reflect the light of Jesus today in all that you do.