We live in a fairly disconnected world. More information is more readily available than ever before and yet, perhaps for that reason, great tragedy always seems so distant, so unreal. News stories so often seem like, well, stories. We go on with our lives carrying the knowledge of someone else’s tragedy the same way we carry the knowledge of Algebra: it’s there, but we never expect to actually use it. That is no longer the case for the residents of Aurora, Colorado.
Death is an enemy. It invades our lives like the Huns or the Nazis and leaves in its wake the foul taste of fear and grief. Suffering, like death, is an unwelcome guest who seems to suck up all the energy and enthusiasm you had planned to spend elsewhere and on better things. The reality of suffering and death leave us perplexed and wondering if God cares at all or is even paying attention.
The tragedy at Columbine High School, the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, shootings at college campuses, and now families gunned down at a local movie theater—one victim just three months old. It’s just all so wrong and our minds scramble to try to make sense of it somehow.
Tragedy shouldn’t make sense, particularly to the Christian mind. The heart’s desire as a follower of Jesus is to die to self in service to God and others. Killing others for self’s twisted reasons is completely opposed to the heart and mind of Christ. What we have witnessed this week in Aurora, and at other times in other places, is completely contrary—an assault on the kingdom of God.
We have an enemy, who is not of flesh and blood, and though he is defeated he just wants to see God’s kingdom suffer, his heart accused, and his motives questioned. There is no sense to it. This kind of hatred makes no sense and it should be foreign and out of place in your heart and mind.
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities,
against powers,against the rulers of the darkness of this age,
against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.
In Jesus’ final days with his disciples he described what the last days would be like: wars and rumors of wars, nation rising against nation and kingdom against kingdom, famines, earthquakes, persecution and hatred. Whether it’s the starving in Africa, the shootings at Columbine, the war in Iraq, the earthquake in Haiti, or the tsunami in Japan, these things have been going on for decades.
I’m not an end times doomsayer, notice that Jesus refers to last “days,” plural. These could include my last day, your last day, and the last days of many generations—this is not the same as Judgment Day (singular). But in any case, what makes these things so tragic is not so much that they happen, but in some ways, the response to them. In Matthew 24:12 Jesus says, “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold.”
Tragedy like this should not sit well with you; it should never make sense, and we should never unplug and keep distant from the suffering of others just because it makes us uncomfortable. Grief is a gift, and we must use it. Weep with those who weep and mourn with those who mourn. Whatever you do, do not let your love grow cold simply because wickedness is so prevalent.
In times of great tragedy we long for the stories of heroism and compassion. As the apostle Paul wrote to the church in Philippi,
“Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right,
whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—
if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things”
The world is hungry for whatever is right, pure, lovely, and noble. It is up to the followers of Jesus to offer it. In the midst of the chaos and grief, let your light shine. We know that this life is just the beginning and the in Christ we have eternal life, but not everyone does. It is in times like this that we see if we really trust God…when it doesn’t make sense.
Life is hard, but it is not time to circle the wagons just yet. You don’t have to defend God, but you do need to seek Him. He is “the God of all comfort” (2 Corinthians 1:3) who comforts us, and through us and with us he comforts others. Two things that must hit home for the body of Christ: the time is short, so make the most of your opportunities because you never know how much time you have. Second, the time is short, make the most of your opportunities because you never know how much time they have.
Our lives are like a mist, and life is precious. The needs of others are far greater than what we often perceive as the needs in our own lives. What you do now matters—a letter to the editor of Aurora’s local paper, a sympathy card to the community sent to the mayor’s office, a donation made for the families affected, if you’re nearby maybe a visit and just sit with them, but certainly your prayers.
Live in the hope that you have in Christ. Encourage others from that source of hope. Seek God and bring Him all your doubts, fears, and questions and do not give the devil a foothold. Grieve, but do so prayerfully in God’s presence. Think about what you would have someone do for you in that situation, and then do that for them. For a citizen of the Kingdom, tragedy is a call to action.
We trust in the strength and hope we have in Christ and seek to serve and encourage others. “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the LORD rises upon you and his glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn” (Isaiah 60:1-3).
Now is that time. Shine your light for the glory of God and the good of your neighbor.
Learn more about the author Pastor Mike Hayward at Economy of the Soul