Innocence stolen, security shattered, hearts wrenched. In one moment, lives were changed forever–some snatched, others left behind, wondering how they would go on once their treasure–their child–was violently ripped from them. And for many, for most, even those with the strongest faith, one question rages: why? Why would God allow such a horrendous act to occur?
Today, Lance Burch from Shadowlake Churck in Papillion, NE, suggests perhaps there’s a bigger question we need to ask: Who? The following post is long, but I encourage you to read it. It’s well worth your few moments in time. (But before you watch the video and read the following, I wanted to congratulate last week’s give-away winner. Dana Patrola, you won a copy of Delia Latham’s latest release, Jewels for the Kingdom. Enjoy! I’ll be contacting you shortly to get this to you.)
Friday around 9:30 am a 911 call was made from Sandy Hook elementary school reporting gunshots and screams. The rest of America was getting ready for work… or stuck in traffic… or complaining about being served cold coffee… and in Connecticut… a horrific scene played out.
I gasped as I read the ever changing headlines on the news sites. First reporting two confirmed fatalities then eventually 27 at the school and one in a home in Newtown. 20 of them children… ages 6 and 7. I was stunned. Speechless. It was impossible to grasp the reality of this evil. And I didn’t want to. I didn’t want it to be real. I couldn’t get, can’t get the imagined images out of my mind of what it must have been like to be trapped in a classroom. To see your friends die and to know that you are next. I imagined parents waiting anxiously for news of their child and getting the worst possible message, your son… your daughter has died. Won’t be coming home. I’m sure there are presents that are going to be delivered to some of those homes. Some are already under the tree. Never to be opened.
And we’re asking this. You’ve asked this. What was God thinking? That question comes back again and again. You will ask this question again. Not because of the tragedy in CT… because of tragedies in your life.
What was God thinking?
Is He truly powerful? Loving?
Can God be trusted?
Did He cause it or allow it?
Neither is comforting.
If I see my daughter about to trip over a rock to hurt herself and I can stop it and I do nothing but watch and allow it to happen. Or if I push her.
Either way, it gives the impression of a bad father.
Everybody of every religious faith are asking these questions. Nobody is immune.
Where was God in this unimaginable suffering?
And many will say:
Either there is no God or God must be cruel.
Something happened. How could God allow such an unimaginable loss? What is your God up to?
When I try to lay current events over a good God, I can’t make sense of it.
Perhaps the God I prayed to and trusted in…doesn’t exist.
When current reality doesn’t match your view of God… you would do well not to ignore current reality.
If He’s not the God who makes sure that all children get home safely. Then who is he? Is He something different than what I had imagined? Have I been believing a lie?
For some, this is not a problem. Perhaps you believe there is no God. Maybe you’re atheist. You’re devastated like everyone else. You want to help those affected. You cried when they heard the news… But – somewhere in the back of your mind, you’re thinking “Christian, let me see you try to explain this one. Let’s face reality. This supports my theory. There’s no God. It’s random. And you are wasting your time. Life happens… then you die.”
Before you judge us Christians too harshly, consider, you have the same problem we do. You’ve created a God in your mind… and you can’t find evidence of the God you created in your mind. Then all you’ve proved is that the God who “should do” this and “couldn’t provide” that… doesn’t exist.
Is there a clue in the loss of life. Isn’t it a question I need to ask? Just who is God?
Regardless of what answers we comfort ourselves with.
At this time of year, when we are celebrating the joyous birth of Christ… families are mourning the loss of children, wives and mothers. They are looking at packages underneath trees that will never be opened. 20 graduation gowns that will never be worn. 20 love stories that will never be told. These sorts of tragedies, while almost unspeakable… aren’t new. In fact, as hard as it may be to believe, this is exactly the kind of world that Jesus was born into. There was a shocking event that happened in the little city of Bethlehem that is the dark side of the Christmas story. It wouldn’t normally come up in a Christmas series, and we didn’t plan on talking about it this year. But, it happened… and I think by looking at it… we can learn something about just WHO God is.
After the wise men were gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up! Flee to Egypt with the child and his mother,” the angel said. “Stay there until I tell you to return, because Herod is going to search for the child to kill him” (Matthew Chapter 2:13).
Jesus came into the world under a death sentence. He was already marked for death. He came into a dark world in which power was so important that if you had to take a life to maintain power, then so be it.
That night Joseph left for Egypt with the child and Mary, his mother, and they stayed there until Herod’s death. This fulfilled what the Lord had spoken through the prophet: “I called my Son out of Egypt.”
Herod was furious when he realized that the wise men had outwitted him. He sent soldiers to kill all the boys in and around Bethlehem who were two years old and under, based on the wise men’s report of the star’s first appearance. (Matthew 2:14-16).
Scholars think that somewhere between 20 and 30 boys 2 years and under were murdered. Now we might have been able to read that somewhat passively just 3 days ago. But not today. Today we don’t have that luxury. Parents in the little peaceful town of Bethlehem were broken hearted… their hearts ripped out by an evil man bent on power. The gospel was good news… but it wasn’t good news for these families. They were left with confusion and grief.
Herod’s brutal action fulfilled what God had spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:
“A cry was heard in Ramah-
weeping and great mourning.
Rachel weeps for her children,
refusing to be comforted,
for they are dead” (Matthew 2:17-18).
This verse comes from Jeremiah in the Old Testament. Jeremiah spoke of Rachel as the representation of all of Israel as her children are led away in captivity and many of them killed by invading armies from the east.
Jesus came into this world under a death sentence and suffered.
So we have a clue, a God who was willing to come into this world under a death sentence.
This wasn’t plan B… He was always going to come into the world as our hero… (Genesis 3:15) as our rescuer. But why did we need to be rescued?
Adam and Eve, the first humans God created, were given one rule. They were placed in a beautiful garden, allowed to eat all they wanted, except for the fruit of one tree. And that is the one tree they ate from.
God created everything good because He is good and great. He is loving and powerful.
So Good and Great that when sin happened, he judged it fiercely and completely. Woman was subjected to pain in child birth, Man was subjected to work a cursed ground!
Romans 8:20-21a says, “for the creation was subjected to frustration not by its own choice but by the will of the one who subjected it in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay”
God judged sin.
God is great and good. He would not and could not turn a blind eye to sin.
We have underestimated the results of sin. God made everything good and gave us the freedom to mess it up… which we did.
We have suffered the consequences ever since. We know how it could be and should be. and we can’t get it to stay that way.
Who is this God we are dealing with?
God is great and God is good.
When sin entered the world, He judged it greatly. Severely.
Everything was cursed, you me… and the ground. Cancer, wars, death…
All of it…
Was this an overreaction on God’s part? If you think that then you underestimate the serious of sin.
But not only did Jesus come into this fallen world
With the threat of death hanging over Him
When He left… He gave us the Holy Spirit to be with us. Always.
Romans 8:26 says, “And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words.”
Holy Spirit is ALWAYS with us… ALWAYS… present.
2) He is present in our suffering… and comforts.
But even more than that, one day Jesus is going to come back and make things right.
Revelations 21:3 I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them.
One day all that is sad, all that is tragic… will come untrue. Jesus will so fully redeem the world that we will be more stunned by it’s beautiful redemption than all the horrors that took place after the fall.
The light of resurrection will eclipse the darkness of sin and death.
He’s proved it with His own life…
He comforts us with His promise to return and rule.
He came into the world under a death sentence… and suffered.
He is present in our suffering… and comforts.
He comforts us with his return to this world… to rule.
That is who God is. No matter how dark and twisted the world gets. That is the world that a baby’s cry was heard in. He didn’t turn away from the ugliness. He entered into it. He won’t shy away from your ugliness. He loves, that’s what He does. We messed this whole thing up and now people suffer. But God is great and good. He didn’t leave us when things got messed up. Why, because he loves.
God’s grace has allowed all of us to be the exception to the rule… today. But none of us are getting out of this thing alive. We are all, in a sense, under the curse because we live in a broken, fallen, decaying world. These events shock us, jar us… but maybe they can wake us up. See, evil is real. It isn’t made up. We all need, right now, to just admit that not only is evil real, but that we take part in it every day. We aren’t part of the solution, so quit giving everyone advice about how to fix this on facebook… because while we know that something is wrong with the world, we can’t fix it and make it stay that way. Because we are the ones who messed it up in the first place!
At the end of the day today, pray, “Father, thank you for one more day of allowing me to be the exception to the rule. You are gracious. You gave me exactly what I don’t deserve.”
We all wish this hadn’t happened. We wish that we had never heard of Sandy Hook elementary school. But, we have heard of it. We wept for it. It stands as a stark reminder that all is not well with this world.
This tragedy reminds us that things are not as they should be… but the cry from the manger… the voice of God at Christmas reminds us that one day they will be.
One day, all that will be left is our love for God and each other… and God’s love for us. One day all that is sad will come untrue.
There will be a last tear… because tears don’t last forever.
There will be a last heartbreak… because heartbreaks don’t last forever.
There will be a last death… because death will eventually die
There will be a last tragedy… tragedies will come to their own end.
And after all of that… just love… our deep love for God and each other… and God’s unimaginable love for us. Hang on… hang on…
You can watch more of Pastor Burch’s grace and truth filled messages here.
Lance Burch is the lead pastor of Shadowlake Church, located in Papillion, NE. He is passionate about sharing Christ’s love with a hurting world and motivates others to do the same.