My heart is sick. The children and adults who were killed this morning in Connecticut are victims in the worst school shooting in American history. Some will shout at the world, or shout at God, shout at rules about guns, or shout at school security. But God’s people will pray. Pray for the families, for the nation, for God to use this horrific moment for some redemptive purpose for his sake.
Shine FM 95.1 radio asked me to speak on the air about it this afternoon, and even though I prayed God would help me voice something true and helpful on his behalf, I dreaded doing the interview. There is a big part of me that realizes any attempt to speak words right now is futile and maybe unwelcome. There are times to fall silent before God. I will not fault you if you do like Job, and put your hand over your mouth, falling mute before the mysteries of evil and suffering, and before the mysteries of God’s grace which still burst through the darkness of this broken world. Maybe you want to scream and shout, or maybe you will be silent. It’s okay. You can do so in the presence of God.
I see the stunned sadness of so many, and in my mind it is like we are at the tomb of Lazarus with Jesus right now. His friend had died, and Jesus went to the tomb. And we are with him now, staring into that black hole that was not only the grave of a friend, but a darkness representing all that’s wrong with the world – all the sickness, all the suffering, all the shootings, all the sin. Jesus felt it all deeply, and staring into the sad eyes of his friends, and witnessing the broken hearts and minds all around, do you remember what Jesus did? He wept. Jesus wept.
That is important to me. In the face of our suffering and pain, Jesus feels with us. He weeps with us. Know this, my friend: Jesus did not forsake those families and he won’t. He has not abandoned us. We do not understand why he didn’t come and stop it all. But we know this: Jesus is here with us, with those families, weeping. God identifies with the suffering. Christ followers believe that in Jesus, God became vulnerable to and involved in the suffering and death of this world! He didn’t come in a black limousine with body guards. He didn’t come as a Commanding General or protected celebrity. He was born screaming in the cold night through travail, onto matted animal straw through a birth canal of a woman who endured excruciating pain. There was blood in the manger. There was blood on the cross. And if it weren’t shocking enough to see God show up covered with mucous and membranes, we see him on the cross and we come to the staggering realization that God now knows what it is to lose a loved one in an unjust attack.
Jesus weeps. This is the Emmanuel we pray for and invite to come to us today.
John Stott wrote: “I could never myself believe in God if it were not for the Cross. In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it?” Do you see what this means? It means that even though we don’t know the mind of God and cannot pretend to understand terrible suffering like this – we confess we don’t know the reason God allows such evil and suffering to continue. But we know what the reason isn’t. We know what it can’t be. It can’t be that he doesn’t love us. It can’t be that he doesn’t care. And it can’t be that he is a weakling. The cross and resurrection prove that, and this gives us some strength and hope. God so loves us, and hates our suffering that he became involved in it and succumbed to it before ultimately defeating it through his resurrection.
In the meantime, before we get to heaven’s land of no more tears and pain and suffering and shooting, we cling to the Jesus who has come. Right here, in our sadness and sorrow and anger and brokenness, we cling to Jesus. We ask him to come with his peace and love and joy, because there is no peace on earth, it seems.
So Christmas just got a lot more real for everyone. For the families involved, the community in Connecticut. For our nation. For every parent who will hug their child more tightly tonight. The incredible need of our world became more real. The darkness of our own hearts became more clear. The desperation of our planet has become more acute. We see now how important and necessary it is for Jesus to come! Maybe now, when we pray for Jesus to come – it will mean more. now our prayers are uttered, whether with screams or sobs, from hearts hungry for a world without shooters. A world that needs a savior.
We need Jesus – the Jesus who loves us so much. The Jesus who has come. The Jesus who weeps with us.
Come, Lord Jesus, the Christ, our Emmanuel. Come!