The far reaching devastation of tragedies such as that witnessed by the nation last Friday cannot be overstated. Families will struggle deeply to find answers, young witnesses of such a devastating tragedy will suffer from trauma for years to come, and fathers, mothers, and all other family members and friends will probably never recover from the loss of their loved ones especially the children. A truly tragic and sad day, a day in which believers should weep with those who weep. Still, in the face of such fierce displays of evil what does the gospel of Jesus Christ have to do with all of this and how can Christianity speak into the void of such suffering and evil? Perhaps we should begin by praying for all the families, perhaps around the dinner table, at church, and during our prayer meetings— our voices should be lifted up in intercession for families so deeply affected by such astounding evil.
“Evil” is the only appropriate word to describe the events which transpired at Sandy Hook Elementary last week; it is evil, pure evil. Still in the face of such unspeakable evil the gospel and thus God does have much to say regarding the events of that day. These are just a few thoughts to bear in mind.
Evil does exist
As a by-product of a post modern culture aided by the Evolutionary worldview which strips mankind of human dignity; “evil” has no real significance in our culture; so they say. In fact, it is often tragedies such as happened this week in Newton that will prick the heart of sinful man to recognize that there are some things which are universally qualified as evil (Judg. 19.29-30; Luke 13.1-5 cf. Rom. 12.17). Although it is hard to begin speaking about anything good coming from the deaths of innocent children as well as teachers who seems to have died for the reason of sheer madness, God does bring beauty from ashes even from such catastrophic loss and death. As Christians we have a sober responsibility to remind our postmodern neighbor that ultimate good and evil does exist precisely as the Word of God tell us. Theodicy is the technical term for how God relates to evil. When people ask, and as the news reels are making evident, people are asking “where was God”, “how can God allow this to happen”, “how can a good God allow evil at all”? These questions are often spoken out of great pain and genuine brokenness and frustration so we must always be sensitive in speaking to such issues. However, we must speak to them nonetheless.
God has a good purpose for the evil which He ordains
Most would want to say that God has no control over evil or that if something evil takes place God has nothing to do with it at all insisting that “that’s just the way certain things are”; concluding therefore that any explanation for such acts of evil are futile. But Scripture teaches something different. Scripture teaches that God is sovereign even over the evil and tragedy that befalls mankind; believer and non-believer alike (Gen. 50.20; Job. 42.11; Acts 4.27-28). However, God has a good purpose for the evil which He ordains. This is at the very heart of the gospel itself. Had God not allowed His Son to suffer at the hands of cruel and wicked men (Acts 2.23), salvation would never have been accomplished. Had God not ordained the prophecy of Rachael weeping for her children as Herod killed all of the male children in Bethlehem and all its vicinity that were two years old and under— Jesus would not have come out of Egypt and thus prophecy would have failed (Mt. 2.17-18). One thing that this shows us is that God is always at work in a myriad of ways. In both good things and bad tragedies, we must trust that God in His mysterious providence has a good purpose in everything He ordains to come to pass even if we cannot see how the dots connect in our limited and finite perspectives.
Man must recognize that all evil is a reflection of the human condition
When devastation of such magnitude strikes we are reminded that it all stems from the human condition of sinfulness. Jesus said:
Mark 7:21–2321 “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, 22 deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. 23 “All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.”
Sadly, this is precisely what children are being taught not to believe. From the earliest ages children are brought up to disregard a Holy God, His holy Laws, His holy Son, and the need for holiness in our own lives. Instead, sin has been reinterpreted as sickness, guilt has been redefined as shame, and judgment has been realized in what we make life for ourselves. Tragedies such as the massacre at Newton are Divine siren calls which summon man to awaken from the slumber of a godless secularism that has no answers for such spiritual problems as sin and judgment. We should pray that through sin, God convinces people of their sin and their misery so that people will call out to God in repentance and faith. This is the only path to healing the brokenness in the hearts of so many surrounding this dark day in American life.
Only God can help us at this point
For a nation that does not believe in the biblical view of the soul (and the afterlife for that matter) soul searching at such a deep level is good. The fact that too often such spiritual reflection happens only in the face of terrible tragedies such as Newton is an added loss. Therefore we should also pray that God would humble people without such tragic events. When God is called into question regarding His providence, we can encourage people to trust in Him as the answer to all things not just human suffering. The answers for human suffering do reside in God because all other issues concerning the biggest questions in our lives reside in Him as well. God is not just the Creator; He is also the Savior, and Sustainer of the human race and of the world. Only God can remedy the human condition and He has done this through the cross. Christ who suffered more than any man is alone the answer to all suffering.
Soli Deo Gloria