Wow. The last couple weeks have been rough for our country and even here in our community. It goes without saying that the horrific attack in Orlando tips the scales as about the most inconceivably dismaying and haunting event in recent memory. My heart goes out to those affected and yet I can’t get my head around the dreadfulness of it. It only partly helps to know that the maniacal Islamic terrorist who perpetrated the murders is suffering a perpetual and eternal punishment beyond description. Yeah, I realize that probably isn’t how God wants me to look at it, but I’m human.
In the same past couple weeks, we had a friend pass away quite suddenly without any warning, leaving a wife and two teenage boys to wonder how, why, what, etc. I found out another friend is battling a late-stage lymphoma and unfortunately had to be in the hospital getting chemo while his oldest child graduated from high school, relegating my friend to watch it on his phone. Another friend is at this moment in a serious battle with depression and what seems like an imbalance with his psychiatrist-prescribed meds. To say it’s a challenging time for his wife and grown kids is an understatement.
So, if I’m being honest, I have to say … I don’t get it. I just don’t know. I don’t get WHY this stuff happens. How do we get our brains around terrible stuff like this? Is evil on the rise? Is it happening more now than in the past? Well, sincerely, I have no idea. I do know that the Bible promises that in the last of days … and in general … our fallen world will struggle, evil will have a temporary opportunity to advance its territory, and pain, heartache, suffering, and tears will be our plight. For a time.
There’s not really a way to rationally explain the occurrence of tragedies and hardship other than the existence of evil, which never really quite feels satisfactory, but it’s true. The world is a horrific place, but Jesus said it would be. Unfortunately He was dead-on accurate and correct. However, He CAN help us overcome our enemies, He CAN protect us (eternally if not temporally), and He will be vindicated against evil.
But in the meantime, it doesn’t mean we have a clean and safe world. Quite the opposite. What do we do with that? As I wrestled with this over the past week, I was glad to be in the Psalms the past six months, and it was in Psalms 145 that God ministered to me as I shook my head in perplexity. Reading through Psalms 142 – 147 and Proverbs 24 … Psalms 145:13-20 spoke to me:
For your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom. You rule throughout all generations. The Lord always keeps his promises; he is gracious in all he does. The Lord helps the fallen and lifts those bent beneath their loads. The eyes of all look to you in hope; you give them their food as they need it. When you open your hand, you satisfy the hunger and thirst of every living thing. The Lord is righteous in everything he does; he is filled with kindness. The Lord is close to all who call on him, yes, to all who call on him in truth. He grants the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cries for help and rescues them. The Lord protects all those who love him, but he destroys the wicked.
We can’t see what God sees. We can’t see when God sees. We can’t see how God sees. That is, while the massacre in Orlando was absolutely pure evil perpetrated upon otherwise innocent people, and while the death of our friend was in all ways dismayingly surprising and heartbreaking, and while the late-stage lymphoma my friend is now battling is altogether disappointing and scary, God is not limited to those outcomes exclusively. Can good somehow emerge from these situations? Yes. Are they still bad? Yes. I’m not going to over-Christianize them to say that they’ll turn to good in time. I don’t think bad things necessarily turn to good. I think they’re still bad. However … God can use those bad times to allow good to emerge from the bad.
God “rules throughout all generations.” His rulership never expires, never diminishes, never is threatened. That means over bad situations as well. He “always keeps his promises; he is gracious in all he does.” He “is righteous in everything he does; he is filled with kindness.” He “protects all those who love him, but he destroys the wicked.”
How then is God all these things and yet we have tragedy, death, etc.? Honestly, I just don’t know. Obviously, it’s because there’s sin in the world. As long as God gives us the choice to follow Him and serve Him, there logically also HAS to be a choice not to. That’s sin. That’s what causes murder, death, disease. It’s unavoidable. I guess the part I just don’t know is what makes people choose not-God. And I guess I just don’t know how God can use these situations as part of a bigger plan that shows us His rulership, that He keeps His promises, that He’s gracious in all He does, righteous in everything He does, and filled with kindness.
But just because I just don’t know doesn’t mean it’s not so. God isn’t limited by my understanding. He’s not revealed by what I see, He’s revealed by what He shows. But by His grace, He uses the evil in this world to let me see what He wants me to see. He perhaps uses the evil in this world to show me who I am to be. Will I someday see how God uses these terrible situations for good? Maybe. Perhaps the response in the community of Orlando will be an overwhelming sense of unity, even among Christians and the gay community who otherwise sometimes might seem at irreconcilable odds. Maybe the response of God’s people there builds a bridge that would have otherwise been unnecessary without the chasm being created by evil. Maybe the support and love shown my buddy’s surviving family will bless them in a way that allows them to minister to others who go through a similar tragedy of losing a husband / father. Maybe my other buddy kicks the crud out of his lymphoma and sends that stupid disease running away in fear and by doing so, helps give hope to others someday. Maybe the fog and weight of my other friend’s depression subsides in such a supernatural way that allows him to minister to others who are battling that very real emotional and biochemical plague. I just don’t know.
God does, though. He’s on the throne still. His heart breaks by the evil and brokenness in our world, but He’s still at work. Someday, it’ll all be worked out and … better than that … restored to its originally-intended state. In the meantime, we’re relegated to sometimes seeing the worst humanity has to offer and just trusting … trusting that God’s got it, and even though we just don’t know … He does. Somehow, that’s got to be enough. It is for me. I pray it would be for you.
Soli Deo gloria!