With yesterday’s shootings at Virginia Tech, the question of God’s role in such events has been on my mind quite a bit. Yesterday, I had a friend ask me, “I am just having a hard time understand why God would allow such a thing to happen … what good can come from this?” Because of a Bible Study I’d prepared earlier in the morning on John 9, the following verses came to mind quickly: “Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. 2 And His disciples asked Him, saying, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ 3 Jesus answered, ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.'” Though no one is accusing the deceased of being killed because of their sin, this passage does make a very clear statement about God’s sovereignty despite bad circumstances. Not being God myself, I don’t know why he allowed these tragic events to transpire, nor do I know how His glory might be revealed in these circumstances. But, I do know that all hope is not lost. I have seen efforts made by believers to comfort those who have experienced loss. At my school alone, several prayer meetings have been held and will be held for the victims of this crime. Further, events like these generally cause us to consider the brevity of life and that which is truly important, something that comes as a much-needed breath of fresh air for our fast-paced, greed-driven, self-absorbed society.
I was also reminded of the story of Job. After losing everything, Job did not sin or curse God but rather affirmed, “The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; Blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1:21). After the long discourse with his “friends,” I love God’s answer to Job:
1 Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said:
2 "Who is this who darkens counsel
By words without knowledge?
3 Now prepare yourself like a man;
I will question you, and you shall answer Me.
4 " Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?
Tell Me, if you have understanding.
5 Who determined its measurements?
Surely you know!
Or who stretched the line upon it?
God’s monologue goes on for a few chapters … I’d recommend reading the rest of it.
It is so easy for us to think we know better than God, to think that certain things simply shouldn’t happen. While I don’t mean to suggest that the actions of yesterday’s shooter were justified or undermine the seriousness of the loss of life, I feel we do need to keep a proper perspective on matters and allow God to be God. Our thoughts and ways are not God’s. Rather, He reminds us, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9). The story of Joseph’s is a great example of this. His father favored him over his brothers, which bred jealousy in their hearts, which then led them to sell him into slavery. Joseph suffers further when he is thrown into jail on false accusations. Yet, in the end, when he sees his brothers again, he forgivingly explains to them, “you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.” God used his brothers’ jealousy and their sale of Joseph into slavery to provide for His people.
While discussing this issue with a different friend, he posed the rhetorical question, “Why did God prevent this from happening the day before? … and the day before that?” In all reality, God doesn’t owe us anything, and yet He bestows us with his grace daily. Not only does he give us physical life, but also provides spiritual life, sight for the blind, the bread of life for the hungry, and living water for the thirsty. We “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), and yet “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
Finally, if I haven’t copied/pasted enough Scripture, I find the following passage from Romans to be comforting. I know the context isn’t addressing human suffering in general, but I think it helps to paint a more complete picture of our Lord and Savior.
Romans 8:35-39 (NKJV)
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written:
" For Your sake we are killed all day long;
We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter."
37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.