Five Points on Vegas
Last week we experienced the worst mass shooting in American history: more than 500 people shot by a gunman, nearly sixty of them killed, while they were watching a concert. What a tragedy! There are no words to describe the anguish being felt by so many mothers and fathers, brothers, sisters, and friends that have lost those closest to them. Our hearts and prayers have, and will, go out to them but, if we’re honest, we’re becoming numb and that’s a very bad thing. There are so many tragic stories, so much pain and so many people are asking the question again, "Why? Why would he do this? Why did God allow this?"
For those who ask the “why” question, who feel that God is absent, isn’t a better question, “Why are we so absent – absent-minded, that is – about what’s happening around us, the terrible influences that are now grabbing hold of our children and turning them into agnostics, atheists, apathetic citizens at alarming rates? Apparently, this man – 64 years old – was not at all a believer. What does that mean? It doesn’t mean that every atheist is a mass murderer but it does mean there was no sense of sanctity for life. No sense of accountability before God. No guilt for hurting so many human beings and destroying so many families.
That "why" question is not a new one; it goes back thousands of years. It was asked in the Old Testament by Job and the writers of the Psalms, and it was especially relevant during the 20th Century, where we witnessed two World Wars, the Holocaust, genocides in the Soviet Union and China, the killing fields of Cambodia, the plague of AIDS, the genocide in Rwanda and the ethnic cleansing of Kosovo. And the 21st Century didn't start any better. There was 9/11 and the Syrian slaughters, and on and on. All man-made. Why do these horrific things happen if there's a loving and powerful God? Why do bad things happen?
More often than not, it’s because bad people – godless, loveless people – simply don’t care. God showed us a way and humanity turned the other way. You see, this is why the Church asks us to be accountable to each other, to commit ourselves AND one another to Christ. We may not be able to make out all the details of why certain things happen, but there are some key biblical truths that can illuminate some points of light for us. And if we follow those lights, they will lead us toward some conclusions that I believe can help satisfy our hearts and souls.
The first point of light: God is not the creator of evil and suffering.
This answers the question you hear so often: "Why didn't God merely create a world where tragedy and suffering didn't exist?" The answer is: He did! Genesis 1:31 says: "God saw all that he had made, and it was very good." Bad behavior has to be learned; it’s not natural at all. So, God didn’t do this – we did!
The second point of light: Though suffering isn't good, God can use it to accomplish good.
In Romans 8:28 St. Paul promises, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."
The third point of light: The day is coming when suffering will cease and God will judge evil.
Many people wonder: "If God has the power to eradicate evil and suffering, then why doesn't he do it?" But there's a flaw built into the question. Just because he hasn't done it yet doesn't mean he won't do it. God works from the inside out.
The fourth point of light: Our suffering will pale in comparison to the good things God has in store for his followers.
In Romans 8:18, St. Paul says: "I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us."
Finally, the fifth point of light: We decide whether to turn bitter or better, turning to God for peace and courage.
We've all seen examples of how the same suffering that causes one person to turn bitter, to reject God, to become hard and angry and sullen, can cause another person to turn to God, to become more loving and more peaceful, willing to reach out to compassionately help other people who are in pain. Some who lose a child to a drunk driver turn inward in rage and never-ending despair; another turns outward to help others as in the case of Mothers Against Drunk Drivers.
So, we make the choice to either run away from God or to run to him. We can reject Him – as humanity has done since the beginning of time – or we can accept the love, joy, and peace that only He can bring. It’s up to us as individual Christians, as a society, a nation and a world.
My feeling is that I think I’ve seen enough. I know where this is going, so I’m not going to run away from God or His church. This is the time that we all need Him more than ever. I hope that the love of God the Father will be a source of consolation for all those who grieve, who struggle with depression, and may it be our model as Christians – a model that we follow with everyone we meet.