Last night Chris and I prayed before falling asleep, like we always do. We held hands and thanked God for our many blessings, prayed for our children and our support raising and our marriage. And then we prayed for Orlando. Chris’s voice broke a little when he thought of the parents. Parents whose babies won’t be coming home. Parents who had horrifying text conversations just moments before a monster took their baby’s life. And this is the picture that haunted my dreams last night: silent phones, still bodies, distressed parents.
We are heartbroken for this tremendous loss of lives. So many young lives; not that value decreases with age but that potential increases! I think of all the amazing things that have happened to me since I was 25 and I mourn the lost future of all these precious humans.
Which brings us to the age old question. What was God’s role is this tragedy? He is sovereign. He literally holds the world in His hands and not one hair on your head is lost without God knowing about it, ordaining its fall. I have studied the answer to this question, heard messages on it and read the many Bible verses that demonstrate that God’s purposes prevail over the purposes of man. I never know how to answer it exactly. It is not comforting to hear that He allowed it, willed it, caused it, or will use it. It’s too horrible! It’s not comforting to hear that He didn’t have a part in it but it is all because of the decisions of that horrible man, because then what is the point? If man is that powerful, then God must be weak. Indeed, this is a prevailing belief today.
This is my only comfort: Jesus, who redeems ALL things, will redeem this tragedy. I know that God was not surprised, though He is brokenhearted. God was not detached, though He does not control us like marionettes. We cannot yet see how, and perhaps we may never see this side of eternity, but this tragedy is part of the bigger picture, the bigger plan for all of humanity, and it fits perfectly into the puzzle, which God sees in completion.
God’s plan for every human is that we dwell with Him forever in eternity. This is the single best thing that will ever happen – no more tears, no more pain, no more suffering. Just perfect fellowship together with God, the creator and author of everything beautiful and good in the world. It comes at the price though. To ensure this possibility, God endured the very same tragedy that those brokenhearted parents in Orlando suffer now: His only son, Jesus, was slaughtered. God sent His son to be slaughtered.
Why did He do it? Because the horrific death of His son paid a ransom placed on mankind. He allowed His son to die in order to purchase us because He loves us. In order to purchase you. Because He loves you.
You see, the enemy of our souls tricks us into believing that God has withheld something good, and we chase after that something until we die.
What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you? You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it. And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure. (James 4:1-3)
Lest you think only Sunday’s killer is represented in this passage, remember that Jesus said that if you hate someone, you’ll be judged like a murderer, and John said it too, a little more pointedly.
No one loves perfectly, and the imperfections void our love when we face God. That’s what sin is. It’s a black mark on our hearts, which are designed in love, for love. Marred. Broken. Imperfections void our love in every relationship, really. It’s just that we (can – we don’t always) forgive and have grace and treat others the way we want to be treated – all things Jesus taught us. He was aiding our survival in this broken world, and He was pointing to eternity, which will be full of perfect love!
Instead of casting aside our broken hearts and the messed up world that rules our hearts, God made a way for His perfect love to rule our hearts once again. He sent His son Jesus to earth, humbly, to grow up in this broken world, and Jesus grew up in it but was not blemished by it. He was perfect in every way – always loving, always gracious, always righteous, and always hanging out with the worst of the broken ones at that – the adulterers, the liars, the drunkards, the sexually immoral. He loved all those people. Indeed, he said they would be first in line to Heaven. He didn’t say it to condone their sins, indeed they turned from their sinful lifestyles time after time when they met Jesus, He said it because they would run to Him with abandon. When you have nothing to lose but your brokenness, it’s easy to come to Jesus. It’s when you’re holding on to something else – your past, your money, your rebel lifestyle, your pain, your reputation, your power – that it becomes hard. It’s like Jesus was saying, “you’re broken. If you know you’re broken, come with me. I will take care of it.”
It’s the knowing that is hard.
Tragedy reminds us.