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Tragedy, Faith, and Talking to Your Children

What do you say when there are no words?

 

     My heart is broken.  I can’t stop watching the news. It seems so unbelievable horrible.  Though it was over one thousand miles away, it resonates through our community through the announcements that students here are imagining violence as well.  I don’t want to let go of my son.  The tragedy that took place in Newtown, Connecticut has shattered the innocence of the Christmas season and forever altered lives of the victims, the community they live in, and the larger fabric of our country. 

     As a pastor, I have spent my life trying to find words, appropriate and compassionate, for moments when life makes no sense.  I offer these words not to take away pain, because that is impossible, but to point to God in the midst of our pain.  

     The first heart that was broken this morning at 9:30 AM at Sandy Hook Elementary was the heart of God.  God is not the one who made this happen; God is in pain over this.    Christian faith centers around a crucified Messiah who became like the suffering of the world.  God’s heart is broken, and God’s spirit is grieving the death of every victim in Newtown - even the shooter.  God is not distant and unmoved.  Psalm 34:18 teaches that God is close to the brokenhearted.  God is present and God’s heart is full of pain over these events.

     Never in the New Testament do we find the phrase “the will of God” regarding the senseless death of innocent people.  Often though we find images of God as a Comforter, as an Advocate, and as the source of mercy and hope.  The only “plan” God has in this event is to bind up the broken hearted, to hold them together, and to be a source of peace and hope to trust and turn to.  

     We will each have to talk to your children about what took place.  Avoidance is not an effective strategy.  The fact is, they are talking about it; texting, facebook, twitter and sharing their concerns in the hallway at school.  Since they are talking about it already, why not take the step to engage them with a comforting and understanding presence.  Their fears are greater than yours.  They will identify with the victims and feel as though they are potential victims themselves.  Give them a safe set of ears to listen, and let them ask any question they want.  You do not need to pretend like you have all the answers.  None of us do.  If appropriate, pray with them and pray together for the families impacted.  It might only last a couple minutes, but this conversation could be important minutes in the heart of your child.    

     These words the Apostle Paul penned to the persecuted Christians in Rome, give me hope in times of tragedy.  I leave you with this blessing that speaks to the life of all those who died today in Newtown, Connecticut:

     “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Romans 8:37-39

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Geoffrey Mitchell is the Lead Pastor of big life community church in Oswego.  Big Life is a church for people who do not go to church and everyone is welcome.  Join them for worship this Sunday at 10:45 AM at Oswego East High School and check them out online at biglifecc.org.  

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