“Am I safe?”
“What if someone comes into my school with a gun?”
“Why do people do things like that?”
These are the kinds of questions that swirl in our minds every time a new school/college shooting hits the news. The recent college classroom shooting in Oregon is just the most recent example. Sadly, these kinds of stories are all too frequent. And they stir difficult emotions in us. Emotions about issues of our safety, and why evil people in an evil world do evil things.
In light of that, how do you anchor yourself in the aftermath of the most recent classroom shooting tragedy that has very likely triggered a sea of anxiety, doubt, fear and questions about the presence of an all powerful and loving God? Here are two thoughts on which to dwell as you wrestle with your sadness, fear and uncertainty.
First, remember that our faith is expansive enough to engulf every fear and question imaginable. In the Bible, the men and women who walked closest to God also carried some of the deepest doubt — especially the one described in Scripture as “a man after God’s own heart”:
Psalm 10:1 O Lord, why do you stand so far away? Why do you hide when I am in trouble?
Psalm 22:1 My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? Why are you so far away when I groan for help?
Psalm 44:23-24 Wake up, O Lord! Why do you sleep? Get up! Do not reject us forever. Why do you look the other way? Why do you ignore our suffering and oppression?
Psalm 74:1, 11 God, why have you rejected us so long? Why is your anger so intense against the sheep of your own pasture? …Why do you hold back your strong right hand? Unleash your powerful fist and destroy them.
Has your heart echoed the feelings of King David? Good! An eternal God is big enough to handle your uncertainties about this temporary existence. But remember that God is not Google…you can’t just input an inquiry and expect a nicely wrapped god-o-pedia type answer. In fact, much of the healing comes simply from knowing you have the freedom to ask. That’s why David answers his own questions about God with this response:
Lord, my heart is not proud;
my eyes are not haughty.
I don’t concern myself with matters too great
or too awesome for me to grasp.
Instead, I have calmed and quieted myself (Psalm 131:1-2).
At some point in our struggles with tragedy it is possible to cross a line from questioning God to challenging God. When you approach this line between pleading and pride, it is best to sit in silence and acknowledge that God is God — and we are not. God is in control even in the chaos. He is sovereign, but He has given us humans freewill which means those who want to choose evil have the freedom to do so — and all of us, to one degree or another, are impacted by the ugly consequences of sin in our broken world, resulting in pain, suffering and loss.
Second, consider the fact that when great evil occurs, it should serve as a warning of the greatest calamity that will ever take place — spending an eternity in hell:
Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish” (Luke 13:1-3, NIV).
This tragedy in Jesus’ day was a result of a sociopath named Pilate, who murdered innocent Galileans while they were worshipping God. Basically, this was the cultural equivalent of a public shooting. When this calamity occurred, the crowds wanted answers — and God Himself was on the scene.
What is amazing, though, is that Jesus doesn’t even try to explain the causes or solutions to the calamities. He purposely avoids going into a social discourse about the disintegration of society, or the effect that the violence in the coliseum has on people. He doesn’t launch into a sermon about why God allows bad things to happen.
Instead, Jesus speaks to this situation with a reminder of ultimate destiny: “…unless you repent, you too will all perish.”
Does God Himself not know God’s answer on the subject? Of course He does. He simply had a completely different perspective on tragedy, which is one that we must consider, as well.
Jesus didn’t look back and try to piece together the causes behind of these events. Neither did He issue a current political statement regarding immediate actions to be taken by His Father. Instead, He looked forward in order to remind everyone about the ultimate question: what will happen to me and to my friends when we die?
In the aftermath of the Oregon classroom shootings, remember that there are and will be many complicated and puzzling aspects that cause us to question the foundations of our reality. Yet in the midst of all the tragedy, questions, and confusion, keep Christ’s perspective close at hand. We must:
Be very careful, then, how you live — not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil (Ephesians 5:15-16).
The days were evil then and they are still evil today…but take heart! We’ve been given a great opportunity to share the light of the gospel in the midst of darkness.
So “let your light shine before others” and tell them about the hope of heaven found only in Jesus.
Flashpoint: Ignite Into Action
Every tragedy brings pain, sadness and difficult emotions. But in the midst of this, let’s remember that the light shines brightest in the darkness, and it is in times like these that many people are most open to hearing the gospel.
Accelerant: Fuel for THE Cause
Pray: Father, we know that You have experienced the loss of a child when Jesus died on the cross. Help us be the life-giving and hope-restoring people to a world that struggles to make sense out of a tragedy such as this. Please open doors for us to share the gospel as people process this tragic event.
Read: 2 Corinthians 5:18b-20. …And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!”
Get: Reverse…Live Differently Student Devotional. The Old Testament book of Daniel shows us how to shine for God in the midst of a pain and difficulty. While still teenagers, Daniel and his friends exhibited immense courage as they were swept up in the turmoil of their times. But despite their trials and troubles, they kept their focus on the one, true God. And as a result, they became history makers and kingdom changers. Pick up a copy of this 21 day student devo today.
Discussion Guide for Leaders
Want to use this Soul Fuel as a bible study with your students this week? Copy and text them the following: “How do you anchor yourself in life after events like the tragic college shooting in Oregon? Read this week’s devo for 2 thoughts to dwell on when things like this happen: http://hubs.ly/H01fczG0“
Big Idea: When tragedy strikes, it is crucial to remember that we can bring our fears and questions to God and look for opportunities to take what Satan meant for evil and let God use it to bring people into a relationship with Him.
Key Scripture: Ephesians 5:15-16
- What is helping you process through this tragedy?
- How has God used difficult times in your life to bring you closer to Him?
- How has this Soul Fuel impacted your view of tragedy and loss?
- What other ways could you apply this Soul Fuel to living out THE Cause of Christ in your own life?