ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Advent Tragedy: What To Expect From God After Sandy Hook

Updated on December 31, 2012
"For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin."  Hebrews 4:15
"For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin." Hebrews 4:15

(This is the text of the sermon I prepared for today, the Sunday following the slaughter of the innocents at Sandy Hook Elementary School, in Newton, Connecticut. At first, I changed what I was planning to preach when these events took place. Joy in the midst of such a tragedy seemed misplaced. Then I remembered that, as Christians, we aren't called to be joyful only in the good times. The following is the summary of my own struggle to understand my calling as a Christian in the face of such evil. )

"Rejoice in the Lord always;

again I will say, rejoice.

Let your gentleness

be known to everyone.

The Lord is near.

Do not worry about anything,

but in everything by prayer and supplication

with thanksgiving

let your requests be made known to God.

And the peace of God,

which surpasses all understanding,

will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

Paul, writing from prison, The Letter to the Philippians 4:4-7, NRSV


Joy in the midst of grief. Peace that knows no understanding. Words. How do we live, as Christians, in the face of evil? How can faith help us when six and seven year old children are gunned down in a little town just like ours? How can we even talk about joy without sounding like simpletons, and insensitive ones, at a time like this? There are so many questions we cannot answer. So many emotions.

Trying to Make Sense Out of the Senseless

The natural human instinct is to cry out against our maker when tragedy strikes. We need someone to blame and it seems that God has broad shoulders and can carry that blame. In the midst of tragedy and disaster, there are few true atheists. We may be angry at God, but we tend not to deny God’s existence when the rubber meets the road and we are tested beyond our ability to cope. We may curse God, but at least we’re communicating. When something happens like what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Friday, we need our faith, we need God, because the absence of God would make an already senseless tragedy even worse.

One of the things we do as grieving human beings is try to find purpose and meaning in the death of our loved ones. We do this in various ways. Sometimes we tell ourselves, and others, that it was God’s will. We say this because then the death of our loved one becomes a piece of a great puzzle, one we aren’t really meant to be able to piece together, but a plan with God’s intention’s written all over it. This can be comforting, but I would never say this to someone who was grieving.

Another thing we do is fixate on heaven, on the afterlife as vindication for all of our suffering here on earth. Our loved one may be gone, but we will meet again someday in the presence of God. This can also be very comforting in the midst of tortuous grief, but I wouldn’t say it to a parent who has just found out that his first grade daughter has been killed.

Another way we attempt to find sense in the midst of horror is by saying that what was meant for evil, God will turn to good. The words even fail on our lips as we say them. Like Job, whose family and fortune were replenished after everything was taken from him, it isn’t enough. Even if we believe it, it doesn’t help, and I couldn’t say it as I looked into the eyes of a grief stricken mother or spouse.

We All Suffer
We All Suffer

The Human Condition

Can the slaughter of children ever be God’s will? No. Saying that it is part of God’s plan, or that we should only be concerned with the afterlife and not this one, or promising that God will bring good from the bad just seems insensitive to me at a time like this.

We are human beings, created in the image of God. Becoming truly human is what God intends for us. So much so, that God condescended to be born into the world, into history as a human being, subject to all the suffering that we experience.

Jesus was fully human. The essence of the true humanity, growing to experience human suffering, joy, pain, heartbreak, and death. All parts of a finite life, authentically lived. God wants life for us, God certainly wanted life for those children, and God knows we live in the midst of death. Our world is broken. Thus says the Lord through the prophet Jeremiah:

"A voice is heard in Ramah,

lamentation and bitter weeping.

Rachel is weeping for her children;

she refuses to be comforted for her children,

because they are no more."

"Slaughter of the Innocents" - Siena Duomo: Pisano Pulpit
"Slaughter of the Innocents" - Siena Duomo: Pisano Pulpit

God knows that tragedy and disaster are part of our existence. Individual and systemic sin has made us less human and God works continually, through the Spirit of Christ, to chip away the inhumanity and reveal what lies beneath it, our true selves, fully human.

Joy In a Good Friday World

So, how can we be joyful in this season of Advent which will always be remembered as the time that a masked and armed young man entered Sandy Hook Elementary School and brutally murdered twenty young children, and six adults? How do we bear witness? It is too soon for resurrection, it is only Good Friday. The sky is still black and stormy. There will be three long days before we see resurrection. For now, we have only the meantime.

I can’t fake joy. I don’t know about you, but I can’t. Doing so at a time like this would be absurd. But today I am joyful in a way that passes all understanding. I’m going to try to understand, though, for your sake and mine. I’ll try to bear witness because the gift is being revealed to us even now. Isaiah prophesied:


the young woman is with child

and shall bear a son,

and shall name him Immanuel.”

God With Us

This is the season of Immanuel, which means God-with-us. This birth of Immanuel into humanity gives me great comfort and joy. No matter how bad things get, and we’ve seen that they can get very bad, God is with us. God is with us, experiencing the depth of grief that we feel at this most horrifying tragedy.

God’s presence with us doesn’t mean that we will not suffer. We are human. Suffering is part of the package. But God weeps with us. God comforts us.

No, God’s presence with us doesn’t mean that we will not suffer. It means that we will never suffer alone. I believe that is a good enough reason for joy. And I believe we are called to bear witness to this joy in our grieving world.

Is God's presence comforting to you?

See results


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)