“Dear Lord, I pray for those who have been devastated by the actions of this man. I pray for parents today who will not be able to pray with their child or tuck them into bed. I ask that you wrap your arms around them and send them your children who will display your true love. I also ask God that you would silence the mouths of foolish men and women who are using this tragedy as an opportunity to continue to spew their hateful words or agendas. I ask God that you would stir your church to action as we pray for and engage other in conversations and that these words I’m about to share will bring your truth into the conversation and encourage other believers to share this truth. In Jesus name, Amen.”
On more than one occasion I’ve been asked this question, or something similar, when a tragedy such as this strikes, “Is God unable, unconcerned, or unwilling to intervene when things like this happen?” I’d like to take each of the presented possibilities first, and then give you what I believe the Biblical answer to tragedy is.
- Unable: Is God incapable or not powerful enough to have stopped this? Well the Bible is very clear on this subject: “For nothing is impossible with God.” Luke 1:37
- Unconcerned: Doesn’t God care? Is he just so far removed from us that this type of thing doesn’t even bother him? I believe that the Bible is incredibly clear on this as well, John 3:16 says the God cares so much that he sent his Son Jesus Christ to die in our place. That Jesus loved us so much that he willingly gave up his life for us, no one took it from him (John 10:18). So, maybe he’s just not involved…actually the Bible teaches that Jesus Christ is not just aware, but actively interceding, or working on our behalf, at all times (Romans 8:34)
- Unwilling: Okay, so God does care, is powerful enough to do it, but he just chose not to for some reason…really loving God, right?! Well, here’s the problem with that thinking, we assume that everything that happens in this world is “God-approved”, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. At the dawn of our world God created Adam and Eve and gave them an incredible gift, the gift of being able to choose, theologians call it “free will”. God gave every human being the ‘right’ to choose whether or not they would serve God or reject God. God refuses to force himself on anyone, because a forced love is not love at all. But, if all men have free will, even those who do evil, than evil will always be present…even horrendous evil, and if men reject God then their minds will continue to be corrupted by sin…
Since they thought it foolish to acknowledge God, he abandoned them to their foolish thinking and let them do things that should never be done. Their lives became full of every kind of wickedness, sin, greed, hate, envy, murder, quarreling, deception, malicious behavior, and gossip. They are backstabbers, haters of God, insolent, proud, and boastful. They invent new ways of sinning, and they disobey their parents. They refuse to understand, break their promises, are heartless, and have no mercy. They know God’s justice requires that those who do these things deserve to die, yet they do them anyway. Worse yet, they encourage others to do them, too. – Romans 1:28-32
So, why didn’t God try to stop this young man from murdering so many people? How do you know that he didn’t? God may very well have been putting person after person into his life attempting to get him to steer away from his life of destruction and corruption, but he simply rejected them. Maybe there were people in his life, who simply refused to do what was necessary to get him help, or discipline him the way he needed, or love him the way he needed. This is not just about one man and God, this is about hundreds if not millions of people interconnected along the chain of his life, any number of whom could have been the key to keeping this tragedy from happening.
BUT, here’s what I do know; No one of us is grieving more right now than God! The heart of God is broken over the sin and the sinfulness that led to this tragedy. Listen to how the Bible conveys the grief and the love that God shows those who are hurting and broken:
The LORD is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. – Psalm 34:18
Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me. – Psalm 23:4
This I declare about the LORD: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him. For he will rescue you from every trap and protect you from deadly disease. He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection. Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night, nor the arrow that flies in the day. Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness, nor the disaster that strikes at midday. – Psalm 91:2-6
You may push back, “But I don’t feel God right now! How does God give me comfort if he’s just a spirit?” That is one of the purposes of the church. We as Christians are to be his hands, his feet, we are commanded to “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” Romans 12:15.
Now, what I’m about to say may offend some of you, but maybe it is necessary. What happened today was an awful tragedy. It was a despicable act by a man who had allowed sin to be in full control and as he spiraled into the depths of his depravity he took the lives of others. We mourn today over those who are lost, we weep today with parents who lost children, children who lost siblings, and friends who lost friends. But, this happens every day in our world. In Somalia this Summer over 29,000 children died in a 90 day span because they did not have enough to eat or clean water to drink. That’s over 320 children per day! In Sudan, some 400,000 to 500,000 children have been murdered or made to engage in warfare where they were killed over the last 10 years. That means that every day in the Sudan 100 – 120 children are killed with guns. These are just two small examples, there are countless others.
Friends the evil in our world is far more expansive and profound than anyone of us could possibly imagine! That fact that things like this don’t happen in every community on a regular basis is proof that God is holding back the tidal wave of sin. Do not let this tragedy derail you from your faith, let it drive you deeper in discovering your faith. Pray for these families, but then pray for your world. Who in your life needs to hear about Jesus? But, don’t stay on your knees, get up and begin to do what you can to change your world with the truth of Jesus Christ.
Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you. – James 1:27