After the massacre in Connecticut on Friday, everyone in America is asking questions of some kind. Some concern the young man who perpetrated the evil act, some concern his family (what they could have done to prevent his actions), and some concern society (what led him to this and how can we prevent more of these kinds of things). Many people, however, are asking questions about God. I’ve heard people asking things like, “Where was God when this was happening?” or, “Why would a good God let something like this happen?” So, how do we answer those kinds of questions? The following is my attempt to address the goodness and greatness of God in the light of a senseless and evil event.
I must start by saying that there are no simple or pat answers to these deep and probing questions. Sometimes we resort to pithy and trite statements such as, “God is good,” or “We just need to have faith.” While those statements are true, they really aren’t very helpful at times like this. Moreover, when the pain is fresh and the wound is raw, long philosophical arguments about the nature of evil and suffering don’t seem very helpful either. What we really want to know is whether there are any solid truths we can cling to that will help us gain a solid footing when the world seems to be spinning out of control. Therefore, I want to share four truths with you that I hope will help, but before I do, let me address the “where is God” issue for those who might be upset with God right now.
As long as there have been people, people have been rejecting God and His standards. We want God, and we want life, but we want them on our terms. Therefore, to a certain extent, God has graciously obliged. As Romans 1:38-32 (and elsewhere) states, “since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.”
In our society, we have been making it abundantly clear that we don’t want God around. We don’t want prayer in Congress or in schools. We don’t want public nativity scenes or public displays of the 10 Commandments. We want a God-less society. Then, when something bad happens, we charge God with wrongdoing because He did not intervene the way we think He should have. We want God to do exactly what we want exactly when we want it in exactly the manner we want it. No more. No less. In essence, we want to rule God, and when He doesn’t play along, we have no use for Him.
Though I fully understand the confusion, pain, and anger, let’s try to get a proper perspective. And then, for those of us truly trying to make sense of the massacre in Connecticut as well as all the evil we see in the world, I want to share these four truths:
Evil exists. We use words like “unfortunate” and “tragic,” which are all accurate, but let’s not forget to call murder what it is: evil. Evil is real . . . and some of it exists in all of us. Romans 3:10, 12 says, “None is righteous, no, not one. . . . No one does good, not even one.” Romans 3:23 says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” We have all fallen drastically short of God’s perfect standard. We all sin, and we do so because we want to. And what is the result? This messed up world we live in.
God is sovereign. We do not believe in a Star Wars type of dualism where good and evil are essentially equal forces battling it out for supremacy. No. God is absolutely in control so that evil is actually constrained. That means that the world is not as bad as it could be. As we read in the book of Job, even Satan himself can only go as far as God allows. So, why does God allow certain things to happen? Here’s my best answer: I don’t know. And you don’t know either. And neither does anyone else. In fact, anyone who tells you they have all the answers for a particular evil act (or natural disaster) is probably either misled or being intentionally misleading.
The Gospel is glorious. This is never more true than at times like these. The Gospel teaches that Jesus Himself came into our sin-sick world and subjected Himself to His very own creation. This is something He did not have to do, but He did it out of love (“For God so loved the world . . .”). He suffered and even tasted death for us. This means that we have a God who understands our suffering because He has suffered too. And He suffered for our sin. Jesus not only died a horribly painful death, but He bore the full cup of the wrath of God that was stored up for us. We are the ones responsible for the mess that is this world, but Jesus is the one who paid the penalty for it. Because He did this, we can have forgiveness of our sin and hope for eternity. And that brings us to the final thing I want to share:
Our hope is not in this world. Our hope is not in politicians, government systems, laws, education, or even religion. Jesus Christ is the hope of the world. One day He will return, and when He does, He will make things right. That day will be a day of reckoning as perfect justice will be served. But it will also be a day of hope for those who have trusted in Him. For those of us in Christ, we have the assurance of an eternity with nor more evil, no more pain, no more sickness, no more sadness, and no more death. It will be an eternity so glorious that, according to Romans 8:18, our present sufferings aren’t even worth comparison. That is what we long for, and the darker the days, the stronger our longing.
So, is this short missive enough to satisfy our questions, to ease our pain, or to clarify our confusion? Maybe. Maybe not. But regardless, as much as we might wrestle with these things, let us not get so philosophical or angry or confused that we forget to pray for those personally affected by the massacre (or any other affliction you might know of). As we pray for comfort, strength, and healing, let us pray most of all that those in pain would turn their eyes to Jesus, the only true hope for the world.