It’s 2 am…can’t fall back asleep. Reading all the facebook posts. Re-reading the news recap of the horrifying events of the morning. It kills me that 20 little kids didn’t make it home yesterday. After church I was hanging out with a couple of newcomers. One is 7 years old, the other will be 8 next May he told me. They thought I was 42 years old. They made me laugh. They are the same age as the kids that were killed today. I can’t get my mind around that. God how can you let this happen?
While I’m at it, why did you let the Aurora shooting happen? Or even the earthquake/tsunami in Japan that claimed tens of thousand lives? Or the Haiti earthquake killing hundreds of thousands? In short, God how can you let all this suffering and evil happen?
This is a tough one. I think the best answer I’ve heard was from John Piper who mentioned in a sermon some years ago that our response of horror to these tragic events ought to remind us of the horror of our initial rebellion against God. It is a reminder that the world as it is was not the way it was created, but what we see now are consequences of our initial sin against God. Romans 8:19-21 says “The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. 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 and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.” So because of Adam and Eve’s sin, not only was our relationship with God broken, but the whole natural order was corrupted and disrupted. That means natural disasters and diseases are as much a result of sin as people killing each other and all the terrible things that people do to one another.
But knowing that the hardship and difficult times that we go through are ultimately the result of our separation from God, while very true, isn’t very helpful…not very comforting sometimes, particularly in times like this. We can kill ourselves asking the why’s and probably won’t ever understand on this side of eternity. I think in times like this, God doesn’t necessarily answers the why’s…
… but He says, look to my Son.
Why did God create the world even knowing all the evil that was going to result? I don’t think we’ll ever figure that one out, but somehow because of God’s love, it was worth it to create us despite knowing that we would fall into sin. But God didn’t just create and run away. No, God was here. God entered into this world of suffering and sin in the form of Jesus, the incarnate Son. And He didn’t enter full grown, 7 foot tall, warrior style with huge muscles and a six-pack. No, He came as a little baby, laid in a feeding trough because there was no more room in the inn.
When Jesus came into this world, yes he did heal the sick and make the lame walk. He even raised the dead. But there were multitudes that were not healed and remained dead. God was here at one time, but He was not here to end all suffering. God was here, shared in our brokenness and suffering, so that through Christ’s death on the cross, our relationship with God could be restored. We can have eternal life if we confess our sins and put our faith in Jesus. Hebrews 2:13 says “Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death-that is, the devil.” Jesus came to relieve the ultimate suffering, our separation from God, and for that we can rejoice no matter the circumstances.
The story doesn’t just end there. Not only was God here, a real historical event in history, but God also is near. Not just in proximity, but in time: Jesus is returning soon. The Old Testament pointed the way to Jesus, prophesied over and over that the Messiah would come. The birth of Jesus fulfills those prophesies. In the New Testament, Jesus prophesied that He will return in the future and will bring to completion the eternal kingdom. While He didn’t come the first time to end all sickness, poverty and natural disasters, He promises that when He returns, that’s exactly what He will do. Rev 21:4-5 says in that day “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’ Then he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’” Let us hold on to those promises; they are trustworthy and true.
But why is it taking so long for Jesus to come back? I mean, it’s 2000 years and counting since Jesus rose from the dead. Why didn’t Jesus just usher in the completed kingdom when he came the first time? Because if He did, heaven would be kind of empty. We would be condemned to hell. 2 Peter 3:8-9 says “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” Jesus did not come in full glory the first time, and He hasn’t yet, because he wants the world to come to repentance and be saved. Jesus hasn’t come back yet because there are still more that He wants to save. Praise the Lord for that. There is still work to be done, and as followers of Christ, we are given the privilege of participating in that work of making known the Gospel.
I can’t put into words how terrible the shooting is. My heart breaks for the families and the community. My prayers go out to them. But, just as we are so horrified by this event, a consequence of sin entering into the world, I want to be just as horrified at my sins against God and run to my Jesus who died for those sins. As tragic as this event is, there is going to be a greater tragedy in store as God will one day stand as judge over all. If we have not repented and trusted Jesus for the forgiveness of sins, we will perish as well.
I’m not trying to minimize suffering on earth. The pain we feel is real. We should care. God cares. And again, God promises us that one day He will make it all right again. Other religions have no good answer for the problem of suffering. In Buddhism, a main doctrine is that life is suffering. To exist is to suffer. That’s the truth of life so we need to deal with it. The only solution is non-existence, nirvana. Or if you are an atheist, tragedies ultimately have no meaning; they just happen. But we have a God who not only understands our suffering, but we have a God who enters into our suffering. We have a God in Jesus Christ who leaves perfect eternal fellowship with the Father and Spirit and enters our messed up, disease-filled, natural disaster-afflicted world to suffer with us, and to suffer the most unjust of injustices, the tragedy of tragedies: bearing our sin on the cross. That’s really why we celebrate Christmas.
If you do not know the Lord, please take the time figure it out. Don’t just put it off for another day or another time. Life is short. Tragedies suck. But the biggest tragedy is not knowing Christ our savior.
13 Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. 2 Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? 3 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. 4 Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”
6 Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree, planted in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it, but did not find any. 7 So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’
8 “‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. 9 If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’” (Luke 13:1-9)