Your students will have different levels of understanding about events that have happened recently. Some have been protected by parents and teachers from hearing about these tragic events; others have heard about them and are deeply concerned—even afraid. As their teacher, you will know best about the maturity level and emotional responses of your students. Use your best judgment in sharing this material. As you proceed to Step 2 and 3, use every available opportunity in the lesson to reference the tragedies as a way of tying your lesson with this topic. As your students ask questions and open up to talk about these difficult subjects, you may find the information in this booklet helpful General Crisis. While it was written specifically to address natural disasters, its contents can be easily adapted to respond to other tragedies.
Americans woke Monday morning to a grim statistic: At least 31 people died and more than 50 were wounded as the result of two mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio over the weekend. The previous weekend three people died in a third mass shooting in Gilroy, California.
- What have you heard about the incidents? (Allow students to share reports they have received through news coverage, or alternate venues such as parents, friends, or social media. Allow students to share freely.)
People hurting people and people killing people is not new. Cain killed his brother Abel over an offering that Abel brought to God. Bad things like suffering, disease, and death happen in our world. God created the world to be perfect. But when Adam and Eve disobeyed God, that allowed evil and sin into the world. Some of the results of sin can be seen in tragedies such as the recent shootings.
- What emotions have you experienced since hearing about these tragedies? (Students may talk about sadness, fear, confusion, etc.)
- If you could ask God any questions you wanted to about what happened, what would you ask? (Allow your students to talk openly and freely; this is not a time to correct any theology or try to divert questions in a different direction. Accept all reasonable answers as a means of finding out where your students stand emotionally and spiritually in the aftermath of this event.)
“Why did this happen?” is something people frequently ask in situations like this. “Why?” questions are very difficult to answer. Because we are just human and God is so much bigger and wiser, we are not fully able to understand the “big picture” like He does. We can remember that while we do not understand, we can still trust and praise God because He is good, loving, merciful, and at work. When sin entered our world, it brought pain and death to everyone. But we know that God loves every person and made a way through Jesus for all who believe in Him to be with Him forever. Until that time, God wants to show us how much He loves us through His Word. That’s why we come together each week to learn more about Him and how we can respond to Him even in the midst of tragedy. Let’s find out what He wants us to know about Him today.
We do not endorse or disavow the views held in the following links. They are provided only as background information for teachers who have not had a chance to research recent events. It might be helpful to familiarize yourself with what transpired by viewing the following links before class.
President Trump condemned racism and white supremacy [1:26]
Rising death toll, police video and ‘hundreds’ saved: The aftermath of the El Paso, Dayton shootings [1:00]
- What do you think God was trying to teach you today about Himself through our lesson? (Answers will vary, but should hold with the lesson topic, or refer to God’s sovereignty during the shootings.)
We talked earlier about the shootings that have been in the news recently. When something like this happens, we all have questions.
Hand out paper and pens/pencils. Have your students find a place in your room where they can think and write with fewer distractions but still see the whiteboard. Ask your students to write down some questions they have for God. They might repeat some that were mentioned in Step 1 or may feel more able to express something in private. As they think, write some of the following questions on the board. This will help them know it is okay to ask questions and will also unlock some questions that they were not able to verbalize. Feel free to add any questions your students mentioned in Step 1 that seem particularly insightful.
- Where was God when this happened?
- Why did this happen to the ones who were shot? Were they being punished?
- Why them and not me?
- Where are my family members/friends who died?
- What happens to children when they die?
- What can I do about my fear?
- What can I do about my anger?
Give your students an opportunity to formulate their questions and then erase the board. It is not your purpose or in your scope to answer any or all of these questions now. Instead, direct them again to talking this through with God. Although some believers think that God does not welcome such questions, there are many psalms that include questions about why certain things are happening. God wants us to talk to Him.
When praying seems difficult or impossible, you can read or recite the psalms as prayers. There are many emotions expressed in the psalms, from the most joyful elation to the darkest pit of depression and fear.
Write the following references on the board and ask your students to copy them. Here are some psalms you might use as you ask God your questions: Psalm 4:1; 10:1, 14, 17; 22:1-5.
Ask your students to turn their paper over and write down as many of the following references as they can:
John 3:16; 16:33b
Psalm 62:8; 117:2; 136:1
Isaiah 25:8; 41:10
Romans 8:32, 38-39
I Corinthians 15:53-55
These Scriptures on the board now are some that tell us things about God. Look up at least three of them this week and see how they answer or apply to the questions you are asking Him. Be prepared to share anything you find next week with the rest of the class.
As your class continues to dialogue with you over the next several weeks about these events, continue to reference the material found here General Crisis for help.
Close in prayer.