In the aftermath of tragedy, we as a people, often find ourselves burning bitterly over one three-letter word. “Why?” we plead in desperation, unable to make sense of evil. And yet, in the silence of tears, no answers emerge.
The next quandary, then, becomes a question of God’s existence – or at least doubts about His true identity. “If God is all-loving and all-powerful, why would He allow something like this to happen?” we beseech in defiance of our teachings. Our voices punch the sky as though bullying our way into heaven to demand God to make sense of what has happened. After all, maybe if we’re face-to-face, He won’t be able to be so silent.
But, if we truly believe in the God of Israel and His Son, Jesus the Christ, there are a few things we must remember.
1) This world – the earthly world – belongs to Satan. We live in a world shattered by sin. Our world, like our souls, is a far cry short of heaven. And although God created all that exists, He does not rule it. In the Gospel of Matthew, the author recounts Jesus being tempted by Satan in the desert.
Then the Spirit led Jesus into the desert to be tempted by the Devil…Then the Devil took Jesus to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in all their greatness. “All this I will give you,” the Devil said, “if you kneel down and worship me.” Then Jesus answered, “Go away, Satan!” The scripture says, ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve only him!’” Then the Devil left Jesus; and angels came and helped him. (Matthew 4: 1, 8-11)
This passage clearly illustrates a threefold of imperative points. First of all, Satan holds possession of this world along with the authority to give it to whomever he desires.
Secondly, all the kingdoms of the world are outside the grasp of Jesus.
Last but not least, it is not that Jesus is incapable of ruling the world – he chooses not to because he has authority over a kingdom even greater than those on this earth. Why would anyone choose to rule brokenness when they can conquer it with perfection? After all, Jesus did not come to rule the world; He came to be a light within its darkness. Even to this day, to the chagrin of the Devil, Jesus continues to conquer. As people accept Jesus and freely choose to follow Him, one less soul succumbs to Satan.
2) God is love. At a time like this, people turn from John’s proclamation that “God is love,” (1 John 4: 7-21). Our human minds simply cannot understand how a loving God could sit idly by as one man claimed the lives of 27 innocent women and children.
How can a God who loves us leave our lives and feeble faith in shambles? Mothers miss the warmth of their child wrapped in their arms and fathers grieve the lost laugh of their beloved baby. If everything that happens on this earth passes through the hands of its Creator, where was His compassion when he gave the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting his check of approval? It just doesn’t make any sense.
What would make even less sense would be for someone to willingly give his or her own life to save the life of the shooter.
But that’s what God sent His own son to do. And each of us – including Adam Lanza – is the shooter.
At least, that’s the love God is capable of – that’s the love God is. God knows the pain of a grieving father because He has been one. He witnessed firsthand the torture and murder of His own innocent Son. And yet, his signature of clearance on that occurrence was the most loving and compassionate act He may ever take.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that Sandy Hook was an act of compassion. I am human myself, and thus cannot make heads or tails of it. But, what I do know is that God’s wisdom and love is much greater than my own. Therefore, my inability to comprehend is nothing more than my own shortcomings as flesh. I am willing to accept that wholeheartedly. Thus, since I believe God’s wisdom and love are infinite and I acknowledge that my capacity for wisdom and love are quite limited, I must continue to trust Him.
Our current state as a nation reminds me of the Biblical story of Job. For those who are not familiar, Job is a character in the Old Testament whom God had blessed with great abundance. In fact, according to scripture, he was the richest man in the East. He also lived very faithfully and worshiped God. Yet, one day in the heavens, Satan approached God and the two struck up conversation.
The Lord asked him, “What have you been doing?”
Satan answered, “I have been walking here and there, roaming around the earth.”
“Did you notice my servant Job?” the Lord asked. “There is no one on earth as faithful and good as he is. He worships me and is careful not to do anything evil.”
Satan replied, “Would Job worship you if he got nothing out of it? You have always protected him and his family and everything he owns. You bless everything he does, and you have given him enough cattle to fill the whole country. But now suppose you take away everything he has—he will curse you to your face!”
“All right,” the Lord said to Satan, “everything he has is in your power, but you must not hurt Job himself.” So Satan left. (Job 1: 6-12)
After Satan departed heaven, he apparently got right down to business with Job. Satan immediately snatched the lives of Job’s children and depleted his wealth in livestock. Yet, in response, Job lamented and said, “I was born with nothing, and I will die with nothing. The Lord gave, and now he has taken away. May his name be praised!”
“In spite of everything that had happened, Job did not sin by blaming God,” (Job 1: 21-22).
As the story continues, however, God agrees to let Satan strip Job of his health. And, with pleasure, Satan continues to attack. Job’s confidence quickly transforms into questions. Like us today, Job doesn’t understand why God would allow these terrible things to happen. And, like any person in pain, Job finds himself going back and forth on his belief in God.
All the while, the attacks were coming from Satan. How does Satan always seem to slip through the cracks of his own devilish schemes? We never question him, even when it is evil that we do not understand. For example, after an incident of infidelity, we have the tendency to condemn marriage even though it is infidelity – the opposite of marriage – that we detest.
So, if God is love and Satan is His opposite, why do we constantly search for God in the face of wickedness? In the same way you cannot find marriage in infidelity, neither will you ever find God in Satan.
Thus, it is vital to the survival of our faith that we clearly distinguish the line between good and evil. How can we point at Satan’s work and curse God for it? We must vividly differentiate one from the other and be able to identify their faces when they arrive.
God is love. Thus, anything outside of love is not God. So, was the gunman demonstrating love when he took the lives of innocent children and teachers? Of course not. Therefore, that was not of God – so stop looking for Him there. That was a temptation and act of Satan himself. Get a good look at him now because I guarantee you he’ll be back.
Yet, what about the teachers who bravely bared a bullet so their students wouldn’t have to? Was that love? What about the police officers that rushed to the scene without knowing if they would be sprayed with the same ammunition? Or how about the nation – and perhaps the world – which drowned in tears and condolences for those affected in the shooting? Is the sinking heart an act of love?
As Mister Roger’s mother instructed her son in the face of disaster, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” She was right. They will always be there. Because despite what Satan does – and as we have seen, he can be up to some pretty nasty stuff – God always conquers him.
3) Remember God’s conquests. The world is a pretty bleak place and we, as humans, add to the desolation by being broken ourselves. And there’s nothing we can do to change that. It’s sad but true.
Yet, that’s exactly why God chose to come to us in Christ. He could change that. And he did so by becoming a light in our darkness. The hope in our hopelessness. A
nd to show us that love is even more powerful than death. Jesus said, “I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness,” (John 12:46). So, this is certainly not a time to turn away from God, but an event to push us toward Him. After all, if Satan wreaked this heart-wrenching havoc, why would we run straight into his arms now? The more we choose to love God through this tragedy, the more light we allow into it. “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace,” Jesus continues. “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world,” (John 16:33).
And, as we have learned, the world belongs to Satan. Thus, once again, God has conquered Satan.
Chalk another one up for Jesus. Then go into the darkness of this world and be and example of His light.
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