At approximately 7:30am on the morning of February 27, 2012, Thomas ‘T.J.’ Lane walked into the Chardon High School cafeteria, and after firing 10+ rounds from his .22 caliber Ruger MK III Target pistol, left six students injured, 3 of which died from their injuries.  As the families and community of Chardon, Ohio try to process and deal with this tragedy, many other students and families across North America are left with the fear and wondering…’could this happen here?

The world has unfortunately had to deal with many senseless school tragedies over the years, and often forgotten once the news coverage leaves the scene, is the wake of emotional damage and questions left behind.  And the questions are not just confined to those directly affected, but many outside the ‘epicenter’ can be affected by the emotional toll caused by the ripple effects of such news.  Although just one school shooting is too much, it is fortunately becoming much more of a rare occurrence.  According to research conducted by the Christian Science Monitor, since the Columbine Massacre in 1999, there has been a steady decline in ‘school-initiated shootings’ over the past decade, partially due to heightened awareness and learning from previous incidents.

But what about other tragedies that students are confronted with, both directly and indirectly?  Here in Canada, school violence is nowhere near the proportion of US stats, so it’s uncommon (thank the Lord) that many students would ever have to deal with this kind of tragedy first-hand.  However, many students face the task of processing their thoughts and emotions from other varying degrees of tragedy and turmoil;

  • the unexpected death or sickness of a loved one(s)
  • divorce or separation of parents
  • depression related to family and/or relationships
  • academic struggles
  • rejection
  • hearing about the news of tragedy close to, or far from home.  

The situations may vary, as does the proximity to the tragedy, but although most are unlikely to have to deal with the tragedy of a school shooting, most are going to have to go through the journey of dealing with trauma, loss and possible tragedy.

So while this news is fresh on our minds, let us remember to pray for those affected and dealing with their loss, shock and trauma.  With the constant updates of social media, almost every school student in North America has likely heard the news of the events of Chardon High.  Questions, assumptions, and opinions are at the top of the conversation topics list, and this opens the door to talk about life and death.  It should also remind us not to wait for tragedy to strike until we engage with a lost and hurting world around us where early warning signs often go unnoticed, or even worse, purposely ignored.  There are lots of people around us that are hurting and in need of the love of Christian community, and desperate to hear the news of the gospel and the love, hope and purpose God has for everyone who calls out to Him.

While the target ‘audience’ of this blog post is for ‘anyone’, I want to offer a specific call out to middle, high school, and college students.  Everyday you have a tremendous opportunity to ‘be the light of Christ’ in the places that God has set you in (family, school, social/sports teams, work), and often the most difficult element to being a witness is just starting the conversation.  Teens and younger adults are often more open to talking about life and spiritual matters than ‘older’ adults, especially in times of personal duress and anxiety.  It doesn’t have to be a full-on ‘preach’ and sharing the 4 spiritual laws with someone, but just showing you care and are interested is the best way to start!  I want to share 2 articles with you, one by Walt Mueller, and the other from Greg Stier.  Both address the events of the Chardon shooting specifically, but there’s so much more that we can glean from their thoughts, and ways we can apply the principles whenever we’re confronted with tragedy and the questions of “why?” and “where do we go from here?

The fact remains…suffering and pain are real, and the people effected in times of tragedy and loss are real people.  Their pain is real, their tears are real, their need for healing and comfort is real. Jesus acknowledged that reality John 16:33, and we too can be messengers of God’s hope to those surrounded by darkness and the sound of silence.  It’s not a matter of ‘if‘ tragedy and turmoil occur in our lives and those around us, but ‘when‘.  So let’s be ready to share the great news of a savior who has already overcome the darkest night we could ever imagine, and to share the burdens of those needing a shoulder and an ear!

*If you want a much deeper response into how Christians can respond with the love of Christ when tragedy occurs, you can watch a CBN.com 3-part series Hope in Crisis: When Tragedy Hits Home.  You can also check out my March 12, 2011 blog post Responding to the Obvious: Earthquakes, Tsunamis and Disaster.

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