We cannot always trace God’s hand but we can always trust God’s heart.
We cannot always trace God’s hand but we can always trust God’s heart.
The text came to my phone yesterday afternoon as I was watching a movie with my oldest two sons – “Over 20 people dead in a mass shooting inside a Baptist Church in Texas.” In a moment the enjoyment of a relaxing, carefree afternoon was replaced by feelings of deep sorrow and intense anger. Of course the details have become much clearer since that initial news, but the feelings remain. My heart resonated with the words of Habakkuk that seemed painfully familiar to how I was feeling at that moment.
Habakkuk 1:2-4 – How long, O LORD, will I call for help, and You will not hear? I cry out to You, “Violence!” Yet You do not save. Why do You make me see iniquity, and cause me to look on wickedness? Yes, destruction and violence are before me; strife exists and contention arises. Therefore the law is ignored and justice is never upheld. For the wicked surround the righteous; therefore justice comes out perverted.
Usually, I give myself at least a couple of days to digest what I’ve taken in before writing on something as tragic as what took place on Sunday morning at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. But where do you go and what do you do when you can’t digest the horror of what your ears hear and eyes see once again following the latest mass shooting in a church in America? My ears take in the information – 26 people killed while worshipping together in what should be the safest place in America. A church sanctuary. Think about it. The very definition of the word sanctuary is “a place of refuge or safety.” Not anymore. Half of the congregation killed in cold blood. Among the dead: A seven year old girl, a pregnant mother and her unborn child, and the pastor’s fourteen year old daughter. A crime this evil in magnitude points out that something far deeper has gone wrong in our society. Now knowing that so many victims of this shooting have been identified as children simply underscores the fact that so much of the evil in the world around us defies our understanding.
THIS DOESN’T HAPPEN HERE!
Why? Why did this happen? This sort of thing doesn’t happen in a small church in a rural setting. As I watched the press conference yesterday from my quiet church office something was said by Public Safety Officer, Freeman Martin that I could not forget: “If you came here wanting to know the motive behind this shooting you’re going to leave here disappointed.” And guess what? The secular world is still disappointed, as they desperately try to grasp why someone would do something like this. Many “experts” attempted to bring understanding of the shooter’s motivation. Everyone from criminologists, to psychologists, and then sociologists. Yet none of their explanations seemed to satisfy the question of why. Undoubtedly, there will be more and more information revealed about the murderer, the crime, and the many victims. Yet when it comes to trying to wrestle with this in moral terms more information will not help us to understand how anyone could have ever plotted and carried out such a murderous attack on a small congregation meeting to worship.
WE ARE WIRED TO RATIONALIZE
Human beings are wired by God to know. It is natural for us to want to rationalize something that seems to have no rational answer. In Genesis 1:26-27 we are told that human beings were created in the image and likeness of God. God has made us to be rational creatures and moral creatures. So there is something inside each of us that cries out – “Why?” But only the Christian worldview provides answers in times such as this. Only the Christian worldview acknowledges the reality and the cause of human tragedy. The pain and suffering are real. The people who have been affected by what took place in Texas yesterday are real people. Their pain is real. Their tears are real. And their pain will find no comfort in the answers the world provides.
CHRISTIANS ARE NOT EXEMPT FROM TRAGEDY
The fact that this attack took place on a congregation of Christians on a Sunday morning points out that Christians are not immune to tragedy. I tried to explain this to a group of teenagers who gathered at our church for youth group last night. Knowing that at some point in their life they will also experience heartbreak. Jesus acknowledged the reality of tragedy and heartbreak in John 16:33 “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”
“These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”
Jesus made it clear to His disciples that in the world they would experience trouble and suffering. It was “in Christ” alone that they would find refuge and peace. Job, too, affirms the tragic reality of pain and suffering this world offers in Job 14:1 – “Man, who is born of woman, is short-lived and full of turmoil.”
THE ANSWER TO THE “WHY QUESTION?”
Pastor Steve, you never really answered the question of why this shooting happened. Please allow me to answer a question with a question: Where did tragedy, pain, and suffering originate from? Answer: Sin. Tragedy is the result of sin. Have you noticed that in Genesis chapter 3 sin enters into our world and in the very next chapter Cain kills Abel? The first recorded murder takes place shortly after sin enters the world. There is nothing new under the sun. Sin is the disease every single one of us suffers from, and Christ in the only cure to sin and its effects.
Allow me a little bumper sticker theology – “No Jesus No Peace; Know Jesus Know Peace.” Meaning if we desire to know peace it only comes through knowing Christ. The world desires to know peace without Christ. No Jesus No Peace. Think back to Jesus’ words to His disciples in John 16:33 – “In Me you have peace. In the world you have tribulation.” It is impossible to have lasting peace apart from Jesus Christ. Consider the words of the Apostle Paul in Romans 5:1 – “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
My heart breaks today for all of those who have been affected by the senseless murders that took place yesterday. My heart breaks for the families that have their loved ones torn from their present lives. My heart breaks for a fellow pastor who wasn’t even there when his daughter’s life was taken. My heart breaks because I know, sadly, this will not be the last mass shooting we have to deal with. In his book The Problem of Pain, C.S. Lewis wrote “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain; it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
“God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain; it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
Christ is shouting to a world that desperately needs Him – “In Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” My prayer is that you are “In Christ” my friends and you know the peace that only He provides.