In times like this it is very easy to find oneself conflicted by our understandings of God and current events. But we shouldn't have to.
Two realities seem in conflict.
Evil is real. It's pretty clear that we live in a fallen world. Death, disease, and abuse of all types seem to reign supreme. This isn't new; across history, the effects of sin have run amok in our world. Now, more than ever. It is even coming into the doors of the church, a place that was once considered a safe haven.
God is sovereign. Our world is not random. Everything fits together or perhaps all things complement another. This type of precision required a creator's care rather than random chance.
If God created and holds that power over creation, that exists in a broken state, what went wrong? How can an all powerful loving God allow things like this to continue to happen? What possible reason could there be that would make sense of the madness?
A couple of observations to consider.
First, the events like what happened in Texas are senseless. In and of themselves, they have no meaning. Evil is devoid of true meaning. It is the survivors who give them meaning. Just like the gunman, just like the one who stopped him, we have a choice in how we respond to the events. We can see them as evil defeating innocence, or we can see them as a place where good can never be quenched.
We do have a choice, and as long as people have been on the face of the earth, we have made both right and wrong choices. To do evil is a choice made by human. To love is also a choice. Both loving and hating require the ability to choose. It is God who gives us this choice.
We also see God's work redeeming the acts of evil as well. We saw bystanders coming to help. We saw first responders run to help. These choices to help, to heal, to comfort the broken and grieving are signs of God's goodness alive in us. Granted, their acts wouldn't be necessary if the evil hadn't occurred first; so does this balance it out? It doesn't seem so from my point of view, but then again, I'm only looking at it from ground level. If I were able to see love and hate - good and evil - from God's point of view, faith tells me things would make much more sense.
Pastor Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Drive Life, presents the following advice for dealing with grief and tragedy:
1. Release the grief.
It’s only human to feel grief when we lose something. It’s more than okay to grieve, but do bring it to the Lord. Matthew 5:4 says, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
2. Receive from others.
Do not try to go through grief by yourself. It’s a mistake to isolate yourself from others. As Believers, we should be there for one another. Galatians 6:2 says, “Carry each other’s burdens. … By helping each other with your troubles, you obey the Law of God.”
3. Refuse to be bitter.
Choose joy and happiness. Accept what cannot be changed and focus on what is possible. (Ephesians 4:3)
4. Remember what is important.
Concentrate on what really matters. While it is possible to lose everything you have, you can never lose the love of God. (1 Timothy 6:6–7)
5. Rely on Jesus
Believers are not alone and without hope. We can always turn to God. Remember that He is our rock, our hiding place. Even in the darkest hours of our lives, we can rely on Him. Trust Him for direction.
Jesus warned His followers that in this world we would have tribulation. Nevertheless, we have hope that we can overcome it through faith in the One who has overcome the world (Jesus).
“I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
What does it mean to us that Jesus has overcome the world? As one commentator writes, Jesus is saying,
“I have overcome the world, and I will come and put My overcoming Spirit into your weakness, and fill you with My own victorious life, and make your hands strong to war and your fingers to fight; and be in you the conquering and omnipotent Power.” (MacLaren’s Expositions: John 16:33)
When the Spirit of God abides in us, we have access to every power that Jesus has. Therefore, instead of living in fear and anxiety of current events; we can place our lives in His hands and partner with His Spirit. This New Life will bring about a peace that allows us to thrive in the midst of turmoil.
Now, to turn this around.
For generations past, people would find in the church a haven from the dangers of our world. If you were hungry, there you would find nourishment. If you were lost, there you would find direction. If you were cold, there you would find shelter.
It seems though that the church no longer is a shelter from the evils of this world, but
becoming an extension of its playground.
While we church folks have long considered the house of worship as holy ground. Our culture no longer holds it as such, so it might just be time for us to take Christ into the culture. To take this battle to Satan's doorstep. It's time for disciples to activate our faith.
Jesus said that "I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it". Gates are defensive elements, not offensive ones. Satan has no defense against the power of God.
Let us grieve the loss of loved ones. Let us celebrate the lives of those who lived faithful to God's call. Let us figure out how to keep our people safe when we gather to worship. Then, let's take it to him!