Events in Newtown, Connecticut last Friday were certainly tragic. When there is no worldview sufficient to explain, and then deal with, such tragedy we are left with immediate 24-hour coverage of the explanations and recommendations of mental health experts and social theorists, and of the proposals and strategies of law enforcement officials and security specialists.
It is into this competition of theories and solutions that those with a Christian worldview — those who are followers of Jesus Christ — can, and should, speak.
Others have ably addressed the theological and worldview implications raised when people endure such suffering, and how those who might have answers should answer, such as Albert Mohler, Russell Moore, and David Platt.
To their treatment of those issues I would add a few practical suggestions for those of us who observe suffering happen.
First, Don’t Speak Too Soon (if at all)
In the book of Job, his friends sat in silence with him for quite some time before ever uttering a word, which was welcome comfort for Job. It was when they offered verbal counsel that they ran into trouble. We’re told in Ecclesiastes that there is “a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance” and that there is “a time to keep silence, and a time to speak” (Ecclesiastes 3:4, 7).
The existence of instant communication via social media is not a justification to race to use it. While quick notice is useful, helpful and even in some occasions life-saving, a quick flood of uninformed opinion is not.
Second, Acknowledge Our Ignorance
Followers of Jesus Christ believe that our God has revealed answers to even the greatest of life’s problems. Yet we acknowledge that he has not revealed everything to us, those things the Bible calls “the secret things of God.” While we believe that the underlying reason for suffering in the world is the decaying effects of sin, the curse of Adam, we don’t know the specific reasons that a specific sinner sinns in a certain way. We don’t know specifically how God is glorified in specific suffering, nor do we know exactly how He will accomplish justice for those who suffer wrongly at the hands of others. We just know that He will.
Third, Acknowledge Our Knowledge
We don’t know specifics. We do know that men commit heinous acts that inflict suffering and death on other people not because their medications are out of balance, or because professionals don’t see warning signs, or because they have troubled childhoods, or because security is lax. Men commit heinous acts because they — because we — are sinners. Neither drugs, nor precautions, nor barriers can do anything to solve that problem.
Jesus Christ can.