What would I say if someone asked today, “Why did God let this shooting in Vegas happen?” My answer: “I don’t know. I don’t know.” No one can answer with 100% certainty why this happened. As I’ve watched the news and listened to the stories of those who were there, my heart breaks. It’s so senseless, but isn’t that one of the key descriptives of evil? Evil is senseless.
It’s understandable how some will use this tragedy as a time to accuse God of failing, supposedly proving that God doesn’t care or exist. And for them I have no answer because of the fact that I can’t answer the “why” behind tragedies. I hold to the the truth that God is great and God is good, but on days like this it’s hard to make sense of those convictions. Yet, God’s character doesn’t change. Circumstances around us do not define God’s character. Rather, his character is constant, and I am to look at circumstances through the lens of God’s unchanging character.
Along with believing that God is great and good, I also know that evil is a reality. Today is another reminder of that. So how could a good and great God allow evil to continue? Isn’t that the question that people have been asking for centuries? And yet it’s true that no has truly answered it so well as to calm all the arguments around the discussion. Mark Mittelburg says it this way, that we “live in the tension and accept that there is a God—One who is good, who is great, and who nevertheless allows real evil in our world for a season and for his greater purposes.”
“Seriously, Brian? You’re going to keep holding on to the fact that God is still working, even in the midst of this tragedy?”
And I completely understand your frustrations. I completely understand the anger. But even what you’re feeling isn’t new. Asaph, the director of the Levitical choir, who, inspired by the Holy Spirit, penned Psalm 73, looked at the “unfairness” and brutality of the world while he was living and felt the same way, being brutally honest with God as he tried to work through his perspective. “When my soul was embittered, when I was pricked in heart, I was brutish and ignorant; I was like a beast toward you. NEVERTHELESS, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:21-25, ESV). He said all of this after admitting that when he tried to understand the “why” behind all that was going on, it became a wearisome task (Psalm 73:16, ESV). He made a decision to focus on the things that he knew about God.
So when you ask if I’m still holding on to the fact that God is still great and still good in the midst of evil happening on the earth, my answer will always be: yes. And while I can’t explain why God allows certain things and seems to intervene in other things, I can say that God somehow does miraculous things in and through the darkness of evil. The proof?
The cross of Jesus.
“Those looking at Jesus as he was dying on the cross had no idea that they were looking at the greatest act of salvation in history. Could the observers of the crucifixion ‘clearly perceive’ the ways of God? No—even though they were looking right at a wonder of grace” (Tim Keller, “Walking With God Through Pain and Suffering”).
Jesus’ death on the cross for our redemption was not recognized while Jesus died. But even that tragedy of Jesus’ crucifixion ended with his resurrection from the dead. Three days after Jesus died, God did the miraculous that brought us life and victory. Today all that we see is death. That’s all that people saw on that Friday at Golgotha as Jesus hung and died. And on that Saturday no one even wrote about it. There is nothing written within he pages of Scripture that tells us what anyone was doing the day after the tragedy. But Sunday? That’s when God showed his plan in all of it.
Today, we are in the Friday of this tragedy. The people affected by it are in the Friday of it. And Saturday will still have to be faced and addressed, reliving this horrendous day over and over in their minds. The hurt that comes with making funeral arrangements. The numbness that comes with events like we experienced today. But, Sunday will come. God will show himself in ways that once again exhibits his greatness and goodness. God will show once again that at no place was he not present (I am with you always, to the end of the age. — Matthew 18:20, ESV). God will show the miraculous out of the brokenness of our world, the world that we broke way back in the Garden.
So while I can’t explain the “why” of today, and I may never be able to explain it or understand, I can stand on the truth of what God has revealed to us.
“The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” — Psalm 34:18, ESV
AND SO CHRISTIANS: what do we, his church, do? We stay near to the brokenhearted because that’s what Jesus does. Someone texted me today, saying, “Sometimes I wish Jesus could walk this earth again with the technology that we have so his words would reach farther and his character would be seen in real life vs text.” And my response to him was this: “He is. For some strange reason he left the church to do just that. The Holy Spirit is in us for that very purpose, bro.” The church is here, on planet earth, to do what Jesus did. The church, the gathering of the saints for the purpose of fulfilling God’s purpose on the earth, is here to bring the too-good-to-be-true news to the world that, as we are reminded of today, so desperately needs it.
So why did this have to happen today? I don’t know. And I’m not even sure that we as followers of Jesus are supposed to focus on answering that question. Rather, I’m convinced that we as the church of Jesus are called to point people toward the life and comfort that comes with Jesus in the gospel. So let’s love, let’s share, let’s hurt with those who hurt. Let’s be honest with what we are thinking and feeling. But in all of it, may God in and through us be near to the brokenhearted. May he use us to share the life-giving gospel to those who do not follow Jesus. And while we may not be answer the “why” of today, we can love them toward the One who does.
Love you all more than you know,