I write this to you while admittedly numb. I am numb from the horrors that occurred today in Newtown, Connecticut. Nearly 20 young Kindergartners lost their lives due to the sheer evil acts of one Adam Lanza. Like you, I have many questions. How could someone be so evil? How could someone be so filled with rage that they take the lives from young, innocent children? Many will ask, admittedly, where was God in all of this?
I do not attempt to offer you quick answers. I do not claim to know all the answers. I admittedly find myself asking God why He didn’t stop this horror from happening. Some will turn on God due to these questions. Others may seek to give up belief in God entirely. But, taking such roads do not bring answers, they simply bring escape. These means only lead to bad ends. Those pathways lead to bitterness, unforgiveness, depression, and hatred. The last thing we need now is more hate.
For the seekers out there, I offer some insights that I obtained after the Aurora, Colorado shootings, while recognizing that these insights do not answer all the questions we may have. Many questions will not be answered until we get on the other side of eternity. I simply give this as a starting point for the one who is desperately needing answers.
Where is God During Evil Events?
Pastor Brian Chilton
“Greetings in the name of our Risen Lord!
We have had a wonderful summer thus far and we pray that you have as well. However, in recent weeks, we have been reminded of the evil of humanity. We learned this firsthand by the testimony of Siv Sov Ashley. Mrs. Ashley asked me at the beginning of the service if she could have some tissues. I understood why she needed them after hearing her testimony. It is absolutely amazing what some people have had to endure.
We have been reminded again by the brutality and depravity of humanity by the recent shootings at the Century Cinemas in Aurora, Colorado. A group of young people between the ages of 3 months old to 25 years of age assembled at midnight in the cinema to view the new critically-acclaimed Batman movie named The Dark Knight Rises. That is when disaster struck. Thirty minutes in the movie James Eagan Holmes, a PhD dropout from the University of Colorado and originally from San Diego, California, entered the theater shooting and killing 12 individuals (as of 7/21/12) and injuring at least 58 people. After encountering the evil in humanity, one is left wondering where is God in all of this?
One thing we have to understand is that God has given us all free will. This is one thing we have a choice. We cannot choose our genetics and we cannot choose many of the conditions we are faced with, but we can choose God or reject God. Jesus indicates this in the 3rd chapter of John. He tells Nicodemus,
18 “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19 And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. 21 But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.” (The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Jn 3:18-21.).
In this powerful text, Jesus both shows the choice to receive and reject, but He also shows the origin of evil deeds. Some would argue that salvation is a God act and that would be correct. We could not know God without God sending forth His Spirit to bring understanding. But, God does not force Himself on us. As Christ states in the Book of Revelation, 20 “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” (The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Re 3:20.).
In addition to the choice of decision, Jesus also showed us that evil comes from one who does not truly know God. They do not have a relationship with God. Evil has been defined by many as the absence of God. That seems to be what Jesus is saying, too. Folks like Holmes, the shooter at Virginia Tech, and those at Columbine hide behind the power of their guns. But if you took the gun away, you would find a scared, lonely, and hopeless person. Evil is the absence of God because God is good. But, why does God allow bad things to occur? Why doesn’t God just interject and stop these things from transpiring? These are valid questions and the answers do not come quickly. But, we see that if God gives the freedom to receive His presence and do good, He has to also give the freedom to reject His presence and do evil. If God forces us to accept Him in our lives, that is not love. We become nothing more than robots or automatons.
There is a story I read that told the story of a young child who was being hung at the gallows of Auschwitz. His body was too small and too starved to instantly break his neck when he dropped, so he writhed in pain for several minutes before dying. Someone cried out, “Where is God?” A wise man of faith who was also a prisoner pointed to the child and said, “There He is. He is there on the noose.” He was saying is that God was there. God was in the gas chambers with the victims who gasped for air. God was in the gallows with every person being hung. God was on the shooting lines with every person being shot. The fact is that in the end, God will even the score. Jesus gives an example of this in the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus.
19 “There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day. 20 But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate, 21 desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.24 “Then he cried and said, “Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.” 25 But Abraham said, “Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented. 26 And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.” Then he said, “I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house, 28 for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.” 29 Abraham said to him, “They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.” 30 And he said, “No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.” 31 But he said to him, “If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.”
CHAPTER 17 Then He said to the disciples, “It is impossible that no offenses should come, but woe to him through whom they do come! 2 It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones. 3 Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. 4 And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, “I repent,” you shall forgive him. (The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Lk 16:19-17:4.)
The fact is that God is taking record of things. But God is also actively working to bring good even out of the most evil of things. Look at the cross: through the most torturous death of Christ, God brought about salvation. God can bring good things out of the most horrific of circumstances if we keep the faith. Admittedly, this does not answer all the questions one may have.
For further reading on this issue, I would recommend Lee Strobel’s book The Case for Faith. A DVD by the same name is also available. Philip Yancey also has a book titled Where is God When It Hurts? Dr. Viktor Frankl has also written a book on the subject from the perspective of a survivor from the concentration camps in Germany in his blockbuster Man’s Search for Meaning. For deeper research on the issue, check out Dr. William Lane Craig’s videos at http://www.reasonablefaith.org/media/the-problem-of-suffering-and-evil-aalborg-university. If you need more resources, please contact me and let me know.
I leave you with one final Scripture. Paul writes, 21 “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Ro 12:21.) Those are words we can all use during these days. May God bless you and don’t forget to say a prayer for those who are hurting, mourning, and recovering in Aurora, Colorado.”
ADDITIONAL NOTE: One great comfort that I have found during this horrific time is the reminder of Christ’s love for children. I believe that those young, beautiful children are safely in the nail-scarred hands of Jesus. We will see them again, one day. There in that place where there is no more death, no more pain, no more hatred, no more bitterness. That place where the grass is greener than any field in Ireland and the sky is bluer than the clearest Rocky Mountain sky. That place where there is no pollution or global warming. That place where tears are replaced with exuberant happiness, where death is replaced with unending life, and where hatred gives way to unconditional love. That place is heaven, the abode of God.
Without a God and without a glorious heaven awaiting us, life would not be worth living. Life would be pointless and these dark, dreary days would not have a silver lining. But, the fact that Jesus came, He died for our sins, and gloriously arose gives us hope beyond measure, and a joy that those who had no chance on this earth will be given limitless chances in that great land of unclouded skies. That place is filled with the love of God, for God is love. Despite our flaws and fears, God still loves us. Remember, God loves you. May we learn to love as Christ loves. May we learn to love Him and each other. If we could do that, maybe…just maybe…we would learn to live together in peace.
God bless and remember the families of Newtown, Connecticut,
Pastor Brian Chilton