The nation is in shock once again at another senseless and cowardly act of violence, this time occurring very early Sunday morning in Orlando, Florida. The horrific evil actions of a madman resulted in the worst mass shooting in USA history. Such acts of maliciousness, and obviously planned out evil leave us in shock and shaking our heads. As well it leaves us with questions that cannot be easily answered. What in the name of all that is loving and that is morally responsible would cause someone to commit such a horrific act to fellow human-beings?
While it is true we are reminded once again that evil does exist in the world, a deeper question needs to be asked. What is to be our response when such atrocious acts shake like an earthquake the very foundation of our Christian faith? What is the Christian answer in the face of evil?
I certainly don’t claim to have many answers in the face of such heartbreak, and if anything I have a lot of questions myself. I always do when unspeakable evil takes place. However I would like to offer some reflections from a biblical perspective. In the midst of such awful tragedy the question of “Why” can never be answered and will drive us to spiritual desperation trying to find an answer.. However, when our minds want to ponder “Why” we must turn our attention to the “WHERE” in the midst of our “Whys.” Where are we to turn, not necessarily for answers, but for strength and comfort in the darkness of our unanswerable questions? The answer to that question is found in a divine WHO.
Man was created with the capacity to have a relationship with his Creator, yet when that relationship is neglected man, as well, has the capacity to commit horrific evil. Our capacity to walk with God or walk away from God, can result in men making choices that at times seem to be those of angels and at other times choices that resemble those of devils. The result of our choices can have both individual and societal repercussions for good or evil. Sadly, too often our sinful, selfish, and godless choices and behavior are like harsh winter winds that have no respect for who its cold winds blow upon. What are we to do, where are we to go when the cold winds of evil viciously blow upon our brow?
The foundation of the Christian faith rests upon Jesus Christ in whom God has acted in history when He clothed Himself in our humanity. That a holy God has acted continued in Christ’s cross, His resurrection and His sending us “another Comforter” – the Holy Spirit – 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 Maratha at the death of their brother, Lazarus, so He weeps with us over the consequences that sin, whether it be ours or someone elses, 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. He has promised that even in tragedy, He can make all things new.
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, 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.”
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.
The message that Christ’s death and resurrection proclaims ever echoes in air — that Christ, by His resurrection, is able to be present in our every situation – both good and bad. Found in the One who overcame death He seeks to help us be overcomers in the “death situations” in our lives.
That Christ lives means we are not alone in our suffering, He is with us. While the world can be cruel, evil, bringing 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.