Author Ken Ham on Sandy Hook Tragedy, Coping with Loss
How Could a Loving God? is a very personal book for Ken Ham. In it he tells how he and his family worked through the grief of losing Ken’s brother, Robert, to a brain disease in his forties. After the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, Ham answered the following questions in hopes to settle our minds and hearts as we wonder – How Could a Loving God allow this to happen?
How has your family made sense of the loss of your brother?
I can't imagine what it would be like for a non-Christian dealing with the death of a loved one. For the person who believes that when one dies, they cease to exist, and thus there is no ultimate purpose or meaning to life, then it must have a terribly distressing time. What a difference it makes for the Christian who has that sure hope in Jesus Christ and knows that a loved one (like my brother) who had put their faith and trust in Christ was now safely in His arms. Nonetheless, and particularly when it involves tragic circumstances (like my younger brother—who had a young family—who died of a shocking degenerative brain disease) it doesn't stop us from asking 'why?' After all, we are finite humans—and so we don't know everything as God does, so such tragic circumstances often don't seem to make sense at the time, and particularly when it is someone who hasn't lived what we would call a full life (70 plus years).
But even though we ask 'Why?', we know because of God's revelation that death is an enemy and that evil is in the world because of our sin. We also understand that God is Sovereign and that He can have morally good/commendable reasons for a situation that we don't understand because we are fallible finite humans. Sometimes when we look back, we can see God's Hand in circumstances in ways we could never see at the time—which is a reminder we need to let God be God—and that's the lesson Job learned. It is also important to understand that a non-Christian can't accuse God of not being loving when someone dies. How can they accuse someone of wrong doing when they don't have an absolute basis for determining what is right and what is wrong! It is only the Christian that can ultimately talk about good and bad because they have a basis in the one who defines good and bad! Remember, the crucifixion was a horrible evil event—yet God had morally good reasons for it—involving the free gift of salvation!
If you had the opportunity to speak to the parents and families of those who lost children in the Sandy Hook Elementary shootings, what would you say?
I believe there are two aspects to the answer to this question.
1. For the grieving families, as Christians, we first need to show them the love of Christ and bear their burdens with them. The Bible instructs us to “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” I'm sure we were all shocked and dismayed at the terrible event involving the shooting of little children and adults. My heart was so heavy—so burdened. I couldn't imagine what the parents and loved ones of these killed by this evil act must be going through. I'm a father and grandfather—and one shudders at the thought going through such an unimaginably horrific time in dealing with this.(Galatians 6:2)
2. There would come a time when they would be ready to talk and seek answers as to why this happened.
So why are we as Christians so burdened by what happened?
When we accept Genesis as it was meant to be taken—as literal history—then we understand that death, disease, and violence are intrusions into this world, and that they occurred after Adam was created. Paul tells us in Romans 8:19–23 that the whole of the creation is groaning because of sin.
So, it’s not God’s fault that there is death and violence in the world—it’s humanity’s fault, because we rebelled against our Creator. Certainly, the shooter has to answer for his own sin. However, we still have to recognize that we now live in a fallen world where we have just a taste of what we really asked for in Adam, when the head of the human race disobeyed God’s instruction not to eat the fruit of one particular tree. In a real sense, we are all responsible for the death and suffering we see around us. So the evil we experience is really our fault because of our sin in Adam—which is one of the reasons we should be so burdened to help others.
There is another important lesson we need to be reminded of in the context of suffering and death in this world. In Luke 13:4–5, Jesus said: "Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish."
Jesus was reminding people that every person will one day die, and that they need to be ready! Those who were killed by this tower in Luke 13 didn’t know that when they arose that morning, it would be their day to die. The Lord Jesus, in saying “unless you repent,” was reminding everyone that they needed to be sure they were ready to face eternity.
This is the most important lesson for all of us to consider during this tragic time in American history, and to be reminded of what the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 10:9: That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.
How can ministers use How Could a Loving God? to help others dealing with tragedies like the Sandy Hook Elementary shootings?
I have had many testimonies from people who have told me that after a tragic event in their lives, they were really seeking answers. They said they read many books, but none really helped them—they didn't give satisfying answers. After reading the book 'How Could a Loving God,' they said it was the only book that really did help them. This is a summary of some of the things they communicated to me:
1. The book is very personal, and very down to earth sharing our real human struggles. Many other books they said came across very 'pious.'
2. The book deals with the origin of sin, evil and death by outlining the history in Genesis—this made so much sense to them.
3. The book shared with them that it is ok to ask 'why did this happen?' as we are only human. Other books made them feel guilty if they asked this question.
4. The book gave specific examples to help them understand that God has purposes often beyond what we can understand and we need to let God be God as Job learned.