If you're feeling like I am right now, you are simultaneously sad AND angry.
I am intensely grieved for the victims and families affected by this recent act of senseless violence.
And I am also intensely angry at this, once again, recent act of senseless violence.
I am really sad and really angry.
So I blog. I have no expectations of making sense of this tragedy but maybe sorting through my thoughts will move me closer to emotional equilibrium. Maybe reading this will help you progress as well. I would love to hear your thoughts - please weigh in with your insight and let's help one another along.
1. Do not politicize this tragedy. In an effort to make some sense of this, to come to terms with this, to reach a safe place where this won't happen again, it is so tempting to assign blame to "the other side". This won't help us heal. Resist that urge. While I am all for security measures, we must accept that fact that more laws are not the answer. As much as we want to protect ourselves from evil, we cannot. See #2.
2. Apart from the grace of God, this world is evil. And all who live in it. This tragedy underscores the truth that the heart is deceitful. There appear to be no signs that would alert us that this was coming...unless we could see what is in another's heart. And we cannot. We can't even know our own hearts! God created a perfect world that included people with the free exercise of will. The ability to love and obey Him or to not. And people (that would include you and me, not just Adam and Eve) exercised that free will and ruined His perfect world. The effects of sin, compounded generation after generation, result in unimaginable evil. The choices of all people impact all other people. (We tend to ignore that immutable truth - on small scale and large scale.) This world is scarred and troubled. And while we live in it, we are going to be impacted by the actions of others. Others are impacted by our actions. And, although I would love to believe that all people are basically good, that is the furthest from Truth that I can get. All people are basically bad and in need of a Savior. And I hate this part but I must say it -- all people are capable of all sorts of evil. Man's heart is evil. Sin has corrupted the human race. Apart from the grace of God, every one of us has the potential to have been that shooter.
3. God is sovereign. Inevitably, in the face of such horrific acts, we ask, Why did God let this happen? All those innocent people! I cannot give an exhaustive answer but I do know that He allows people the freedom to choose. And for the world to suffer the consequences of those choices. And He is not distant and unmoved and silent. I believe there were angels all over that concert arena. Guiding. Directing. Comforting. And He will continue acting in mercy. See #4.
4. The kindness of God - I believe that He allows terrible things to happen, not only because they are consequences of the sin of mankind, but also to show His authority and capacity to bring good out of evil. The shooter intended this for evil but God purposes it for good. He could have opened up the Earth and swallowed that gunman up...but He didn't. So, because He allowed it, I know that He is loving and faithful to bring everlasting good from it. For all who are called by His name and according to His purpose. Already there are thousands of hearts moved to act in response to this evil. People are donating blood, ministering to victims, praying, comforting one another...showing evidence of the grace of God in the lives of men.
5. The brevity of life. I think it is safe to say that not one of those people attending that concert planned on not coming home that night. They expected to get up the next morning, get kids ready for school, go to work, celebrate an enjoyable evening. Instead, their plans were permanently altered. 59 people are in Eternity and hundreds more will never return to the "normal" they knew. What a reminder that Life here is uncertain, brief, and able to change without a moment's notice.
6. What, then are we to do? In the face of these somber truths? Probably a million things but here are some suggestions for processing our way through this...
- Talk with your kids. If they are old enough to know what happened, talk with them. Comfort and encourage them. Admit you (we) do not have "the answers" but encourage them with Truth. (see 1-5).
- Do not become numb to such tragedy and evil. When I heard news reports of how great the market did Monday, I felt sick. I have no idea what that means or how it relates to this event but just that very report made me face the fact that we are capable of becoming callous to such horror. Dear God, do not let that happen! Instead, let us
- GRIEVE! Heart-wrenching, body-racking, sobbing grief. God forbid that we should ever be callous to the consequences of evil. Events like this should evoke tears and pain and heartache. Grieve over what has happened. Grieve for what those victims' families are facing. Cry and sob and hurt.
-Compassion. This is active grief. Don't just feel the pain - HELP those that are hurting. If you live nearby, get off the sofa and do something to help. I don't know what specifically you can do but find out. Then do it. If you don't live nearby, you can still do something. Ask God to show you. Donate to a charity in the name of a victim. Take cookies to the police station in your area just as appreciation for their job. I don't know what you should do but figure out a way to channel your grief into compassion for others. Do something!!
-Pray. This one can sound so glib. Such a Sunday School answer. But it's the truth. Probably the most productive response to evil is to pray.(see Matthew 6:13) Pray for the families of those who are left. Pray for the family and friends of the perpetrator. Pray for those who are handling the investigation, dealing with the aftermath, making decisions. Pray for those who witnessed it. Those who survived. Pray for our nation, our world....our own selves. Pray that God would grant us grace, knowing that we all are capable of falling captive to such evil.
-Increase the urgency to share the Gospel. Events like this cruelly remind us of the brevity of this life. As well as the natural inclination of mankind's heart of sin. Events like this can be the red alert to the world, telling us all that we need a Savior. That one day we will all give an account for what we have done. And, apart from the imputed righteousness of Christ, we don't stand a chance of that day going well for us. The people in Las Vegas and Orlando and Aurora and Virginia Tech and Columbine....and Watkinsville and Athens and wherever you live...need to know that there is a Savior. A Savior that can save them from the consequences of their sinful condition. In Eternity...and right now. A Savior that can bind up their broken hearts and equip them to face this unbearable pain and to carry on. A Savior that can even bring healing and beauty and joy.
- But do not fear. I repeat, do not fear. Psalm 23:4 says "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will FEAR NO EVIL." Our natural response to tragedy is what I call "the bunker mentality". When the events of 911 unfolded, I wanted all my peeps home. In the same room with me. Probably forever. And while it is good to draw comfort from those we love, we cannot and must not crawl into our bunker, pulling all our children with us, and try to create a perfectly safe environment. It won't work. And if we try that, we plant seeds of fear and insecurity in our children. Seeds that will bloom into all sorts of unproductive weeds. Instead of recoiling from these tragedies, we must assure our children (and ourselves) that, while evil does exist, God is good. And He loves us. He will punish the evildoers and He will take care of us. He will not leave sin unpunished. We cannot promise them that evil will never befall them but we can promise them that He will never leave us. That He is the divine alchemist, who can take pain and sorrow and tragedy, and turn it into golden good. And that one day, one glorious day, those that love Him will get to live in a perfect world. Where no evil can come in.