Tuesday, February 28, 2012

How To Deal With The Tragedy at Chardon High School

Yesterday morning just before 8 A.M., I started to receive text messages and phone calls informing me of the events happening at Chardon High School. In case you have been hiding under a rock the past 24 hours, there has been another school shooting. Just after 7:30 A.M., yesterday morning, one young man opened fire on a handful of students in the cafeteria at Chardon High School, just east of Cleveland. Five students were shot, and as of now, two of the students have died. While my heart has always been disturbed over these sort of tragedies in the past, this one was different. I live in the Chardon area. The high school is seven miles from my house. We have people from our church that attend Chardon. This time it was different. It was close. It was personal. 

My immediate reaction was to find out how our students and their families were doing. They are okay. Maybe I should say they are safe. Not okay, but safe. I am not sure anyone who is at that school is okay. Unless you are here, it is hard to describe the closeness of this community. Everyone knows everyone. And many of them are related to each other. People intentionally move 10 miles east from the eastern suburbs of Cleveland to Chardon to get the feel of the country and a small town. It is only a town of about 5,000 people, but the school feeds in from some of the surrounding areas. The school has around 1,100 kids in the High School. The downtown of Chardon is a quaint little town, with a town square. It's just one of those places that seems like home. 

We often think that tragedy shouldn't strike here. Not places like this. My heart grieved all day as I watched the news and heard interviews about what happened inside of the school. From all accounts the teachers, school district, and local law enforcement handled things as best as they could have been handled.

But now, 24 hours later, the questions still remain: How do we handle it? And should the Christian handle it differently than the Non-Christian? Does the gospel change the way we look at things like this? I would say it should. It should give us perspective. As difficult as this might be, we should force ourselves to think of this from the perspective of eternity.

As I just said, at first glance, it seems like this sort of thing should never happen in Chardon. It's an all-American small town. But as a friend of mine said yesterday, where there are people, there will be tragedy. That is because people are sinful. I was angry yesterday, but not necessarily at the young man who opened fire. I was angry at sin. And that anger turned into hope. I cannot wait till sin is finally eradicated. I can't wait until the final redemption of our lives where there no longer will be the presence of sin. But until that time (either when I die or Jesus returns), there will be tragedy. I just don't think answering people with "It will all be okay" is a good answer. It will all be okay when Jesus finally eradicates the presence of sin, but until that day it will not be okay. Sin still remains and people still do stupid things. Sinful things. Tragic things.

That might seem gloomy, so let me give some positive perspective. As I am dealing with this, I have to remember that none of this took God by surprise. He is not in heaven saying, "I can't believe this happened." It is in situations like this that having a high view of a sovereign God keeps me from going insane. God is in complete control. If you don't think that is true, think for a moment of the alternative. Which brings more comfort, God is in control or all things happen randomly for no reason. 

I take great comfort through the book of Job where nothing happened to him that did not pass through the approval of God. We want to search for the answers to the question of why these kids? Why our town? And those answers we will probably never know. Searching for the why answers will always leave us searching. But having our hearts moved toward more trust in a God that is in complete control, that leaves us with hope.

It is hope because the Scriptures say He will not give us more than we can handle. It is hope because we know that He is always working to redeem these tragedies for the glory of His name. I can only suppose that will happen as we trust deeper and stronger than we did before this event. And as we spread the name of Jesus through this event.

You see, one of the main emotions that will come out from this is fear. Fear that it could happen again. It could. Fear that my life could come to an end. It will. Fear of what happens when I die. Now we've arrived to a real issue. The fear of death is real. And this is how the Christian and non-Christian should look through different glasses. The Christian should realize that death equals a better life with Christ (Phil. 1:21-26). The Christian should realize that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord (2 Cor. 5:6-8). The Christian should think differently about life and death because they have been forgiven by a holy God through the death of His righteous Son.

My heart still breaks. Please continue to pray. Pray that the name of Christ might be able to go forth in this community. Pray that God might use this tragedy to give people perspective of life and death. And pray that we ask the right questions and search for the right answers.

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