What do you say the day after twenty children between the ages of five and ten and six adults are killed by a twenty-year-old male shooter who then killed himself in Sandy Hook Elementary School in the US state of Connecticut? What can anyone possibly say?

If you live in the States, there is a good chance you will find yourself drawn into a debate on gun control the day after another massacre of innocents. North of the border it is a difficult debate to comprehend. For most Canadians, guns are simply not a part of our daily culture. Fire arms may have their place for hunting and rigidly restricted sport shooting, but we do not want them in our neighbourhoods, ever, in the hands of anyone other than authorized law enforcement personnel.

The sad reality of yesterday’s tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut demonstrates that, in even the most peaceful, calm and civilized community, human beings are unpredictable. Unpredictable human beings are dangerous. Anything a society can do that might in any way restrict the potential damage a dangerous unpredictable person can inflict on others deserves serious consideration.

But, if we can avoid the gun control debate, what might we want to say in response to Adam Lanza’s horrific actions yesterday?

The horror of Friday December 14, 2012 stands as yet one more reminder, if we need reminding, that there are forces at work in the world over which we have no control. Terrible things happen to people who have done nothing to deserve the devastation that has invaded their lives.

Whether we live in Canada, the US, or any of the vastly more violent and unstable parts of the world, if our sense of well-being in life depends upon our ability to control all the forces that may ever inflict themselves on our lives, we will live forever in dread of the potential horror we may one day meet.

Jesus said to his followers,

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.

But he went on to say,

I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. (John 14:27)

The peace Jesus promised is a peace that does not depend upon our ability to control the circumstances of life. It is a peace that does not come from living a life in which bad things never happen.

If we can find it, there is a place deep within our innermost being, where the peace that Jesus promised resides. In the face of even the most frightening horror, it is possible in time to experience a reality that is deeper than the chaos of circumstance on the surface of our lives. If this reality does not exist, then horror has the final word and it is difficult to imagine how the people of Newtown will pick up and carry on their lives today.

But Jesus came to demonstrate that there is a deep presence at the heart of life that has the power to sustain and strengthen us. The hope of peace in the midst of pain is always present.

It may take years to come to this peace of Christ, but the more we practice today resting in that deep spring of well-being, the more we will be able to find that place, when, God forbid, we should need it as badly as the shattered people of Newtown, Connecticut need it today.

In the end, the only really worthwhile question we can ask is how do I react. Do yesterday’s events cause me to live more authentically, to love more deeply and to be more gentle? If my answer is yes, then there may be some tiny shred of redemption that comes out of the terrible horror of this event.

We hold in prayer the people of Newtown Connecticut in the terrible suffering through which they will struggle for untold days to come. May they find strength and be surrounded by love and goodness in the midst of the tragic brokenness that has come crashing into their lives.