Seven out of the ten deadliest shootings (Vegas, Orlando, Va. Tech, Newtown – Sandy Hook, Sutherland Springs, San Bernadino, and Fort Hood) in American History have occurred in my lifetime, and I’m only 21 years old. Two of the five deadliest shootings in American history have occurred within the past 35 days.
I feel overwhelmed by the thought that evil so deeply penetrates the hearts of some of the people in our country in light of another mass shooting in Sutherland Springs, TX yesterday. I feel overwhelmed by the immensity of the loss of life. I feel overwhelmed by the thoughts of the number of children that woke up without parents this morning, the number of parents that woke up without their children, the number of husbands and wives that woke up without their spouse. These are difficult things to fathom and I wish there was a way to explain them, but there really isn’t.
The question, “where is God?” in the midst of heinous crimes like these seems to be a very reasonable reaction. Sometimes it is difficult to take to heart what the Psalmist writes in Psalm 39, “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” Not to assert that God isn’t near, but confusion in the midst of times like these is a fathomable expression of grief and despair. I’ve adapted some of my reflections from the past and over the course of yesterday and today below as this has been constant on my mind again.
So how do we make sense of times like these? It is easy to go to bed and to ignore the immensity of the loss of life in mass shootings like these since they don’t immediately affect us, but if we take to heart the loss of life, it can be difficult to swallow. Life is incredibly challenging, and it’s not always easy to have full faith in what God is doing here in this fallen world. During these times, I have often found myself looking to passages like Romans 8:20-24 which states: “For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” Sin is ugly, our world is broken, and my heart hurts; so, I find peace in the truth that God knows we are broken and that he will come to redeem us and reconcile our brokenness to himself. I “groan inwardly” as I wait for God to make all things new and restore all of this suffering. It is times like these in which the exclamation “come quickly, Lord Jesus,” feels all the more real. Indeed, we should proclaim for Christ to come quickly.
The only way to make sense of times like this is through faith and trust in God’s sovereignty and care. And the beauty of the trust we have in God is that it is trust acquainted with one who sympathizes with us. Lest we forget, Jesus Christ, the son of God, suffered pain unimaginable as he bore the weight of the sins of the world. As Hebrews 4 states (which I’ve referenced before), “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (v. 14-16). Jesus sympathizes with our weaknesses and through his sacrifice, he has given us the ability to draw near to the throne of God so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Oh may we be faithful to draw near to God’s throne during times like these.
It is not easy to have faith when living in a fractured world, but God doesn’t call us to have faith only in times of peace. He calls us to faith in all circumstances. Even the apostle Paul struggled with the emotional distress of the effects of sin our world. He writes, “Yet which I choose I cannot tell (discussing life and death). I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better” – Philippians 1:22-23 (parenthetical statement added). But he doesn’t stop there. Rather than sitting around and moping about how bad life can be or how emotionally distressing and challenging it is to live in a world of such hurt and tragedy, he continues on by writing, “But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus” – Phil. 1:24-26. This has been a difficult truth for me to swallow. Maybe I’m the only struggling with it, but it’s reasonable to assume there are others out there that also wish all of the suffering, the pain, and the distress of this world would be restored and made new. But we must not enslave ourselves to this logic. Yes, we eagerly await the day when God makes all things new, but in the meantime, we must use every waking moment to “remain and continue with you all” so we can be faithful message-bearers of the Good News that our world will one day no longer be broken because Christ has defeated death and made a way for all things to be new. We will one day live in a reality free from mass shootings and senseless murder.
Friends, if you struggle with these same thoughts, I would encourage you to never forget the truth of the Gospel. Be compelled by the love of Christ and stand firm in the faith and sovereignty of God, even when it’s difficult… Nay, especially when it’s difficult. We cannot be perfect in these sinful vessels we call bodies, but we can strive each and every day to “finish our course and the ministry that we received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the Grace of God” – Acts 20:24 while altogether knowing that God has given us his Spirit to help us in our times of weakness and lack of faith. Rest in this truth and glory in God until he sees fit to make all things new on his sovereign timing.
In the meantime, may we be on our knees often praying for the community of Sutherland Springs, TX and all others that are affected by senseless tragedies and loss of life. May we fall on our faces expressing our desperate need and dependence upon God for his sustainment. Our hearts are still broken following tragedies like these, but I pray God’s glory will shine through even the darkest of times, as it did that dreadful night on calvary as Christ hung from the cross.