Any shooting spree is inherently horrific, but it reaches new depths when a child is involved. With so many children involved and their being so young, the Sandy Hook shooting is exponentially more tragic and disturbing. The innocence and defenselessness of a child evokes in us the instinct to protect, as witnessed by the heroism of the teachers and administrators at Sandy Hook who were also gunned down as they tried to defend the students. The whole nation is reeling as we try to comprehend how terrible the children's families must feel, and we feel helpless to comfort them.
Terrifying as their last moments must have been, the victims are now better off than the schoolmates and loved ones who have survived them. Those little ones must surely be gathered in the loving arms of their Savior. But life for those left behind must be unutterably bleak right now.
Though we feel there is nothing we can do for them, the prayers that so many are lifting on their behalf must support the bereaved, great as their pain surely must be.
The pain of one person, however, is very likely continuing and very intense—and yet unrelieved by few if any prayers.
In The Hiding Place, Corrie Ten Boom recounts her experiences in a Nazi concentration camp, and her sister Betsie's incredible sanctity, which repeatedly surprised her. After witnessing the beating of a "feeble-minded" girl at the camp, for instance, Corrie asks Betsie, "What can we do for these people? Afterward I mean. Can't we make a home for them and care for them and love them?"
"Corrie," Betsie replies, "I pray every day that we will be allowed to do this! To show them that love is greater!"
It is only later that Corrie realizes: "I had been thinking of the feeble-minded, and Betsie had been thinking of their persecutors."
Similarly, when Betsie had been questioned and struck by a Gestapo agent, she told Corrie, "I feel so sorry for him."
Again and again Corrie was shocked by Betsie's ability not only to forgive their enemies, but even to pity them. Sometimes Corrie felt a certain outrage at her sister's mercy.
But she learned from Betsie's example, and after her death and the end of the war, Corrie did set up a home to help people recover from the horrors of the war. She went around giving talks, telling Betsie's story and encouraging people to forgive.
She found herself unable to do so, however, when face to face with one of the Nazi guards from the concentration camp where she and Betsie had been prisoners. Beaming, he came to thank her for her message of God's mercy, hand thrust out to shake hers. But she couldn't lift hers, even after she'd prayed that the Lord would help her to forgive him.
It was only when she prayed, "Jesus, I cannot forgive him. Give me Your forgiveness" that she could take his hand. And when she did so, an almost overwhelming love for him sprung up in her heart. "And so I discovered that ... when He tells us to love our enemies, He gives, along with the command, the love itself."
The hardest commandment Jesus gave us was to love our enemies, to forgive them and pray for them.
It may seem unthinkable, impossible, to pity the young man who brutally shot down little children. Indeed by oneself it is impossible. But nothing is impossible with God.
And upon reflection, that young man is very pitiable. Something was awry in him. Such heinous deeds deserve the torments of hell. And without the prayers of others, it seems very likely to be his eternal lot. And yet, and yet... can we not pray that somehow, some way, his very last moments might have seen the grace of repentance? God is outside time; our prayers now and in the future can touch those final moments. Such a person may not "deserve" prayer, but definitely needs it.
While not guilty of anything so monstrous, none of us is innocent either. As a sinner, I hope not for what I deserve, but for the mercy of God, made available by the Precious Blood of His Son Jesus.
And that same sacrifice is not only more than enough to win mercy for Adam Lanza too, but—much as we might shudder at the thought—was shed for that very purpose.
May God's mercy be showered down upon him and upon on those whose hearts he has shattered. And someday, may they, for the sake of their own peace, be given the super-natural, miraculous grace to forgive.