LAS VEGAS – This morning the world woke up to hear the news that at least 50 people were killed in the largest mass shooting in the U.S. to date.
It hurts to read that people enjoying a concert were killed and injured in a matter of minutes. In those moments, do you ever ask where is God in the midst of tragedy?
Can we rely on God to help us? How much? Is He really someone we can turn to in times of crisis as well as times of calm?
God is the Creator of the universe who yearns for us to know Him. That is why we are all here. It is His desire that we rely on and experience His strength, love, justice, holiness and compassion. So He says to all who are willing, “Come to Me.”
Unlike us, God knows what will happen tomorrow, next week, next year, the next decade. He says, “I am God, and there is no one like me, declaring the end from the beginning.” He knows what will happen in the world. More importantly, He knows what will occur in your life and can be there for you, if you’ve chosen to include Him in your life. He tells us that He can be “our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in times of trouble.” But we must make a sincere effort to seek Him. He says, “you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.”
That doesn’t mean that those who know God will escape difficult times. They won’t. When a terrorist attack causes suffering and death, those who know God will be involved in that suffering also. But there is a peace and a strength that God’s presence offers. One follower of Jesus Christ put it this way: “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”
Reality tells us that we will experience problems in life. However, if we go through them while knowing God, we can react to them with a different perspective and with a strength that is not our own. No problem has the capacity to be insurmountable to God. He is bigger than all the problems that can hit us, and we are not left alone to deal with them.
God’s Word tells us, “The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him.” And, “The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. He fulfills the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cry and saves them.”
Jesus Christ told His followers these comforting words: “Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Therefore do not fear; you are of more value than many sparrows.” If you truly turn to God, He will care for you as no one else does, and in a way that no one else can.
How can we all be more prepared for tragedy while not being immobilized by it? Sometimes it just involves a shift in our mental position. Tragedy helps us to:
Recognize that we can have wrong assumptions of who God is. We’ve being lulled into false assurance. Tragedy reminds us that God never guaranteed safety from all physical and emotional pain while on this earth. He does promise Christians the enduring presence of the indwelling Holy Spirit and eternity with Him. Tragedy helps our expectations of God and our fallen world to be more biblical.
See others’ pain. We sometimes shield ourselves from the pain that people feel in our own country and around the world. We can block out or forget about the teen abductions for trafficking in Thailand, children seized from Christian families in the Sudan, church bombings in Nigeria or pastors imprisoned in Iran and China. Our suffering awakens our heart to the daily pain of those around the world. And prompts us to pray for them more tenderly.
Long for heaven more. It reminds us that Christ in us is the hope of glory … not that day’s personal victories. (Colossians 1:27). It makes us yearn for the spring of the water of life (Revelations 21:6) and the One who leads us in triumphal procession (2 Corinthians 2:14).
Embrace that God uses hardship to draw believers and nonbelievers alike to Himself. C.S. Lewis wrote in The Problem of Pain: “We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
Discern the Enemy’s schemes. Satan would like to take tragedies and twist them murmuring: See? Your God is absent and impotent! He doesn’t care or act! Instead: “Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world” (1 Peter 5:9). A great book to help battle a defeated view is Disappointment with God by Philip Yancey.
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