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Words like horrifying and tragic just don’t seem sufficient as labels for the deep sadness we feel over the news of the mass shooting in Las Vegas this past Sunday night. We grieve specifically for the families of 59 people who’ve died and for the 500+ who’ve been hospitalized. Such a massive tragedy is rippling throughout the whole country. One of our pastors, pastor Rashard, sent us a text asking us to pray for one of his former students and good friends who had been shot multiple times. While it looks like his friend is going to be ok, many many of course aren’t. And we grieve generally because as a country there is a sense where we are not OK right now. We are prone to look over our shoulder and to be a little bit more skeptical of public places and unfamiliar faces.
Tragedy presses in on our faith unlike anything else. In our recent sermon series “My Problem with God” we devoted an entire sermon to the question “Why does a good God allow suffering?” While you can listen to the whole sermon and download the manuscript, I wanted to offer you just a little of it here.
John 11 records the scene when Jesus’ good friend Lazarus died. Mary & Martha (Lazarus’ sisters) were in deep grief. And in that grief they cried “Where were you Jesus?” If only you would have shown up! (v.21 & 32). But no, right when they needed God, he wasn’t there. And BECAUSE he stayed away when they wanted him to deliver Lazarus from death, they begin to make assumptions like maybe he doesn’t care. And there is a danger we can look at Las Vegas and think “God doesn’t care.”
Jesus doesn’t offer them a logical defense for his absence. Instead he gets down on the ground with them where they are weeping and John tells us “Jesus Wept” (v.35). He cried with them. He wasn’t just being empathetic, he was hurting with them. He hates death. And yes, he would go on to raise Lazarus from the grave, but that isn’t the main point. The point is: Jesus loves all of us like he loved Lazarus. And he realized we would all face death. And he had to do something to rescue all of us from the death we are bound for. A death worse than physical death. A spiritual death that would separate us from God for all eternity.
So he went to the cross. He paid the price for our sin so we who were bound for death could be rescued. We could spend eternity with God! So if we ever question his love for us in a moment, we need only look back at the cross. And at on the cross…we see his love for us is overwhelming and complete. He took the hell we deserved so we could get the heaven he deserved.
The way my old pastor, J.D. Greear, used to describe how to respond when your faith is shaken by tragedy: If I remember his love for me in his darkest hour, I wont doubt his love for me in my darkest hour.
Let’s pray for the families and friends of victims. Pray when they ask “God where were you?” they might feel him kneeling beside them weeping, wrapping his arms around them like a loving father. and pray they might see him hanging on the cross because of his love for them.
If you’d like more on the subject, Russell Moore wrote a great article on this tragic event – it’s one that I recommend reading. You can find that here.