The recent shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School will leave emotional scars on the hearts of adults and children alike, but Hope for the Heart founder and biblical counselor June Hunt says it's important to remember that God is good, even in times of tragedy.
"When people talk about the sovereignty of God, we clearly see that there is His perfect will," Hunt told The Christian Post on Tuesday. "Now, the truth is in His perfect will He gives human beings choice. He's made us all, all human beings, with the ability to go against His perfect will."
Hunt says evil could be described as "the absence of good," or the "perversion of a good thing." If God had created a world in which the ability to choose evil was not a possibility, she argues, men and women would be like "robots."
She also doesn't agree with those people who interpret the description of God as "sovereign" to mean he is the cause of evil, simply because He is the Creator and the King over all things. When an earthly king's subjects are disobedient, the king isn't blamed. In the same way, she suggests, God shouldn't be blamed when His subjects are disobedient to Him.
It's important to understand these things in the midst of tragedy, she argues, because otherwise some people might be tempted to accuse God or even question His existence because of their grief. But God is familiar with grief: He experienced it when His son, Jesus Christ, was also killed.
"God's son was murdered. So the Heavenly Father is not detached, uninvolved – there was grief," said Hunt.
On Friday morning, 20-year-old suspect Adam Lanza allegedly barged into the Newtown, Conn., elementary school, shooting and killing 20 children and six adults before eventually committing suicide. Lanza, who reportedly suffered from Asperger's Syndrome, also allegedly killed his mother at their home before attacking the school.
Many people in Newtown will mourn their lost loved ones throughout this Christmas season, and Hunt points out this isn't the first time a mass murder has occurred around Christmas. During the very first Christmas, a jealous King Herod ordered the execution of all male infants throughout Bethlehem in order to prevent the Messiah from coming to power.
"We think of Christmas – the brilliant star, angelic hosts proclaiming peace on earth – but the truth is the first Christmas ushered in a death threat to the newborn child that resulted in mass murder of children ages two and under," said Hunt, who was in the process of writing an article about the same topic.
Although Hunt, an author and speaker who founded Hope for the Heart in 1986 and has worked in biblical counseling for several decades, doesn't believe mass murders can be altogether prevented, she does believe there are preventative steps that can be taken to help protect at least some people.
Much of the media discussion since the shootings has been on the topic of mental illness, and Hunt says there are several warning signs parents should look out for in their children. A lack of empathy – caused perhaps by previous abuse or a mental disorder – is one important sign to watch for, as well as isolation and a quick-tempered nature.
Helping these children to experience "normal" feelings is key, she says, and families, with the help of professional counselors, can try to help these children understand pain and the importance of not inflicting it upon others.
Friday's assault on the school is still fresh in the minds of the parents whose children survived the attack, which is why they should be aware of their own emotional state before trying to help their children process what happened.
"The wise person who wants to help, the wise parent, has to first consider: Am I emotionally stable right now? Being overly emotional can frighten a child as much as the event," said Hunt. "So if the parent is so absolutely distraught ... then the wise thing for that parent to do is to enlist the help of an aunt, a grandmother, a friend, who is steady."
Hunt, who believes in an "age of accountability," says parents affected by the tragedy can and should tell their children that their classmates are in heaven, with God, and are no longer experiencing pain.
She also says physical, emotional and spiritual safety should be the focus of their conversations with their children.
"You want to reassure children of their safety, ensure them that the police and others are all working to make sure you are safe, and that our family is safe. And you help the child to feel safe by modeling calmness, being relaxed, a still confident behavior within yourself," she said.
The same applies, she says, to children who don't live in Newtown but have heard about the incident either at school or on television. Parents should carefully listen to their children, finding out what they have heard and how they feel about the devastating news.
"Many parents make the mistake of trying to 'protect' their children by not talking," said Hunt. "Pain expressed is pain released."