In the early hours of Sunday, June 12, 2016, a man opened fire inside the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, killing 50 and wounding 53 (as of this writing). The closer to home this kind of tragedy happens, the more people ask the question that is the title of this post. As a nation we feel outrage and compassion for total strangers. As friends a family we experience the horror and gut-wrenching loss of loved ones. We know, instinctively, that this was wrong in every way. We also know, instinctively, that Someone bigger than us should be in charge and could have prevented it. How do we process events like this and the future occurrences that we know are inevitable?
Aside: Emotions are raw. I’m going to tell you now that some of this is going to sound insensitive at first. It would be insensitive if it were an isolated statement. This is not about who the victims were. This is not about who there perpetrator was. This isn’t about why this specific event happened. It is about our relationship with God as individuals and as a species. Please, read this post as a whole and process it in that way.
I have two sons that are now out of high school. I love them and I’m proud of them. They aren’t just my kids, they are my friends. We laugh a lot. I say that to point out that I have, thankfully, not been though the illustration I’m about to use. If this happened to me I’d be wrecked.
Imagine you have a son. At age 14, when the hormonal storm is an F5, you have a fight with your son who announces that he thinks he doesn’t need you anymore, you are a tyrant, and he is going to leave the house. He is going to take care of himself from now on. You love your son and ask him not to go. You warn him of the dangers that await him, but he packs his few belongings and heads out the door. He trades the provision and protection you provide to do his own thing.
Your son has no money, no job, no car, it’s 10 degrees and snowing outside. He can either realize the foolishness of this course of action and come home, or he can make further choices to try and take care of himself that will inevitably lead to an even worse state. If something happens to him outside of your own ability to protect him because of his own choices, it isn’t your fault. In that instant, how much sense would it make for him to ask, “How could my dad/mom let this happen to me?” It wouldn’t.
In a very real sense this is what we do as individuals, as families, as groups of people, and as nations. In Romans 1 the Apostle Paul gives a very profound description of this cycle. Starting in verse 18 Paul describes the beginning of this process as us knowing God but deciding that we know better than He does. So we trade some of Him out of our lives for more of us doing own thing. This cycle repeats. We trade out more of God for more of our own ways, until God isn’t involved at all. We pack our bags and head out into the snow. We trade the provision and protection of our Father for our own provision and protection which we, frankly, suck at.
“How could God let this happen?” If God isn’t in charge of our lives I don’t think we have a right to ask this questions, at least not in this way. (If you are a follower of Jesus and you still experience tragedy, which you will, there is Biblical truth to comfort you in your situations, but that’s beyond the scope of the point of this post.)
Something that few seem to consider is the fact that when stuff like this happens it hurts God the Father as much if not more than it hurts us. I think He feels wrecked by this! If we want His provision and protection, His comfort in hard times because every family goes through those, then we need to go back home. He’s waiting for us. (Read Luke 15:11-32 and the story of the runaway son.)
Something else to consider, something that has always fascinated me as a student of people, is this question; when bad stuff happens, why do people suddenly either blame God, or reach out to Him? We don’t thank God or give Him credit when things are good, so why do we blame Him when things are bad? (I know why, I’m just trying to make us process stuff.)
When we experience the wrongness of life without God, the rightness of who God is and how things would be if He were in charge become clear. We have an innate sense that if God were in charge He would not let this happen.
The fact of the matter is that as long as there is sin in the world, crap like this is going to happen. That’s why this isn’t about radical Islam, nor is it about homosexuality. It’s about our own sin nature. Jesus came and did what He did so as to give us the ability to have a choice; to live under the protection and provision of our Father who loves us and grieves when we hurt, or to not. We can’t have it both ways like a hormonal teenager might want.
One day there won’t be sin in the world. Until then, how do we cope with this stuff? How do we process life when these things happen? We cry out to God like King David did in Psalm 61. Here are the first two verse in the old King James. It has a more poetic feel to it sometimes that I appreciate as is the case here.
Hear my cry, O God;
attend unto my prayer.
From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee,
when my heart is overwhelmed:
lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
There are going to be some idiot Christians that are going to say some very idiotic things about what happened in Florida because of the involvement of ISIS and the fact that this was a gay bar. I, for one, as a less-idiotic Christian, am going to do my best to ignore them while they make people like me look bad. I suggest you do the same. Ignore the idiocy and strive to reach the truth despite them.
Setting all of that aside, here are some suggested responses and ways for us to process this.
- Be mad at God if you need to be. He’s a Big Guy, He can take it, for a while. Do it knowing that when you’ve calmed down you are going to be quite for a bit and give Him a chance to respond.
- Pray for yourself like David did. Read all of Psalm 61. Ask Him to left you up above all of the noise of this situation so that you can hear Him more clearly.
- Pray for the people in Florida, and for the people of our country. What should you pray? The way I see it you have two choices; judgment or mercy and grace.
- Judgment is a good and right thing. However, when that’s all we think about we tend to turn into the kind of person we are angry at in the first place.
- Instead, pray for God’s grace and mercy on the victims, their families, even ISIS, that they, too, would cry out to God as you have. Pray for them to come home.
If you have found this encouraging please do share it online and repost it on your own blog. If you need to decompress I’d love to dialog with you. Post a comment below. If its more personal than that you can direct message me through Facebook or Twitter, or shoot me an email.