REFLECTIONS IN THE MIDST OF TRAGEDY

The nation is numb and in shock once again at another senseless and cowardly act of violence that has occurred. Early Wednesday morning, in Moneta, Virginia, a disgruntled man cold bloodily gunned down on live TV two unsuspecting news journalists. Such evil we cannot comprehend. It leaves us numb, in tears, shakihopeng our heads, and with questions that can’t be answered. What in the name of all that is morally good would cause someone to commit such inhuman violence on innocent victims? What is to be our response when such brutal acts shake the very foundation of our Christian faith in a loving God?

I certainly don’t claim to have many answers in the face of such tragedy, but if I might I would like to offer some reflections from a biblical and pastoral perspective. In the midst of such awful tragedy the question of “Why” can never be answered and will drive us to spiritual exhaustion. However, when our minds want to ponder “Why” we must turn our attention to the “WHO” in the midst of our “Whys.” Who are we to turn to is our quest, not necessarily for answers, but for strength and comfort in the darkness of our unanswerable questions?

Man was created with the capacity to make choices, and our fellowman can make choices that at times seem to be those of angels and at other times choices that are demonic. Our capacity to choose is both individualistic and corporate and affects one another for evil and good. Sadly, too often our sinful, selfish, and godless choices and behavior are like ripples in the water affecting those within its boundaries. What are we to do, where are we to turn when the ripples of evil splash upon us?

The foundation of the Christian faith rests upon Jesus Christ in whom God has acted in history when He clothed Himself in human flesh as a Babe at Bethlehem and walked upon the earth. That God has acted continued in Christ’s cross and His resurrection, and because of His victory over death He has promised to abide with us forever. As man our God has wept through human eyes, as God He a seeks to lift us out of our sin and suffering, rather that suffering be the result of our own bad choices or as the result of the evil and violent behavior of others. As Christ wept with Mary and Martha at the death of their brother Lazarus, so He weeps with us over the consequences that sin, whether it be ours or someone else’s, can bring into our lives.

We must not forget that Jesus Christ bore in His physical body, as He hung on the cross, the very worst evil that mankind could inflict. Yet in the midst of the darkness of the worst of evil which Christ experienced He was victorious, and in His victory He provided for us Light in the midst of our darkness, comfort in the midst of our pain, and hope in the midst of what appears hopelessness and senselessness.

We must not forget that because of God’s suffering with Christ on the cross, as He tasted the evil and sin of all mankind, and His triumph over it all that we gain the assurance that God can and will be with us in our suffering and pain. God, who in Christ on the cross was the greatest sufferer of all, is the assurance we will ultimately obtain victory even though tears may temporarily fill our eyes.

P.T. Forsyth has written, “God is able to empathize with all human suffering because He has, in the event of the Cross, experienced the height of suffering…God spared not His own Son from suffering, and in the midst of suffering rose above it; then even in the most dreadful things that man can produce He bids us to follow Him in our sufferings so that His victory might be actualized in us.”

C.A Dinsmore writes, “There was a cross in the heart of God before there was one planted on the green hill outside of Jerusalem. And now that the cross of wood has been taken down, the one in the heart of God abides, and it will remain so long as there is one sinful soul for whom to suffer.”

In the midst of our heart-felt sobs and tears, if we listen closely we can hear the comforting voice our Savior saying, “I understand, for I, too, have suffered and am touched with the suffering and pain that touches you.” Our Christ is not indifferent, He is the Chief sufferer and giver, He is one who has paid the greatest price to secure for us atonement and the comfort that God is with us in our suffering. Forsyth says, “On the cross of God’s incomparable suffering is that it provides us with a concrete model of faith to emulate in our times of suffering: that of the crucified Christ.”

We may never logically understand the suffering that touches us and those we love, but we with the conviction of faith understand that what Christ did on the cross He did for us all. On the cross he took our sin, our heartache, our brokenness, our grief, and our questions; and with a holy love that can’t be intellectually grasped but can be experienced, He entered into a realm of suffering that is beyond our comprehension that we might know His abiding presence in every circumstance and situation of our lives.

Only a few months away from the celebration of the Christmas season, its message being that God in Christ has walked among us in human flesh and as a result He is able to be present in our every situation – both good and bad. Found in the One who was born at Bethlehem is the One who seeks to be born in the “everyday” of our lives.

That Christ lives means we are not alone in our suffering, He is with us. While the world can be cruel, evil, bring us sorrow, and leave us with many unanswered questions, we must remember that in Christ we find comfort, hope and His presence that enables us to continue on in faith as we wait for that Day when He makes all things new and dries every tear from our eyes.

Blessings,

Dr. Dan

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