Last night, tragedy happened at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado. Twelve people were shot, many injured and in critical condition, and countless others left emotionally scarred and torn from their daily lives. In moments like this, people ask God why. They wonder why God lets bad people live in the world, that would one day decide to shoot innocent people who have done nothing more than just go see a movie. We live in a country that is significantly removed from violence in our daily lives, and many view it as a form of entertainment to watch on television. It happens to other people, but not us.
But when it happens to us, we wonder what God is thinking. We wonder why the God; who is by definition, Love, lets innocent people become victims of evil. If this God that we worship is really oh, so powerful, why does He not just stop it from happening? Does He really care at all about us, our lives, and our children’s lives?
I have to premise all of this discussion on admitting that I, too, a pastor’s wife and Christian for many years, have asked these questions as well. I am now on the path to becoming a pastor myself, and there are times I still wonder. I am not going to offer all the answers here; I would just like to offer a few thoughts about what Christians typically say in this instance. We have many little cliché’s that we attempt to put on these situations, Band-Aids that we think may help, but really they just leave the person that is literally torn from the world that they knew, further away from going to the Almighty Comforter for comfort and peace.
1. “It’s all a part of God’s plan.” Really? God’s plan is for evil to reign in this world, and for people to die unjustly, unfairly, and completely innocent? Babies get murdered, raped, and worse each and every day, and that’s a part of God’s plan? This is not the God I serve. Psalm 5:5 states, “Therefore, the proud may not stand in your presence, for you hate all who do evil.” God does not use evil people for His purpose. He brings life from evil situations, because He is God, but He does not create or use evil for His will.
2. “I am so thankful God protected me.” Um… what about all those people that God did not protect? Did they do something bad today? Did God decide not to like them? Evil is meaningless, random, senseless, and useless. God does not protect some and let others be killed. It’s just not how it works.
There are probably more out there, but I think I will keep it to these ones, since they seem to be the most popular. You see, God can bring life from death, light from darkness, but God is Light. God is Love, He is nothing but goodness. Suffering and evil cannot, and will not ever come from God. Suffering and evil is the product of sin in this world, because we chose to go our own way. God does not will sin; He allows sin because He wants us to choose to have a relationship with Him.
Through giving us the ability to choose Him, He also gave us the ability to create suffering for others. Because, inherently, sin is having a broken relationship with God and with others. Suffering happens because of the choices that humans have made to remain in sin. And even if we have chosen differently, the sin of other people ripples out to affect each and every one of us, in ways too numerous for us to count, for generations upon generations. All of humanity is still living in the effects of sin on the world.
Through the power of Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection, we can claim new life and victory over sin, but we are still going to feel the effects from the sin of those around us. It is just a part of living in the broken world we live in, and there is not a Godly reason for it. It just is, because we make bad choices. We choose to sin.
So, there are two points I am going to make. People do not need to hear that it will all be okay, that it’s all God’s plan, and that God protected some to the detriment of others. What they need to hear is that there is no real reason for why it was them and not someone else. They need to know that there is no purpose for evil, no meaning behind sin, and no point in darkness. But there is new life in Christ, and Christ knows what it means to suffer; He understands how it feels to cry out to God and ask, “MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME?” Those moments are real, they happen, and do not be afraid to shout them.
But in those broken moments, when death and darkness seem that they have won, there is new hope in the light of the Resurrection. New beginnings, new hope, new peace, new joy, new love; in the goodness of the everlasting life of those reborn into the life of Jesus Christ. We are cleansed by the blood, but we are redeemed by the Resurrection. And in that life, suffering holds no sway. It holds no grip, and it holds no power.
Let us live in the hope of the Resurrection, the Light of the Living God, and the power of the Holy Spirit that lives, moves, and breathes among us.