The tragic deaths this week of twenty children and several teachers and staff at an elementary school in Connecticut forces us once again to reflect on extremely difficult questions. It will never be possible for any sane person to understand how a young man can walk into a school and start shooting without any regard for the lives of others or even his own life. Even more difficult than understanding the human mind is the question of where is God.
Many years ago I decided that if I were ever to become an atheist it would be because of this issue – how an all-powerful, loving God can allow evil in the world. The question was probably first asked by Adam and Eve after one of their sons killed their only other son. You know it was a frequent subject of conversation among the Israelites when Pharaoh had all the newborn boys killed during the time of Moses’ birth. No doubt the same grief was experienced by families in Bethlehem when Herod killed all the boys under age two at the birth of Jesus. Killing children is beyond comprehension.
The question comes up in the aftermath of any tragic occurrence – the horrific events of 9-11, the Holocaust, the Crusades – this list seems endless. The Book of Job, an entire book of the Bible is devoted to this question but does not provide an answer. All we know is that somehow Job worked it out in his own mind and went on with life.
Just days after this most recent tragedy we are hearing theories about the cause. So far, in my thinking, they all fall short. It was not caused by a lack of gun control, nor is it the result of removing prayer from schools. Perhaps a broken family contributed to this young man’s problems but very few children of divorced parents go on killing sprees. We can blame violent video games or graphic movies and television shows. Some have even suggested politicians, for the way they spew anger at one another, should shoulder some of the blame. Or, perhaps we must strengthen the mental health care system.
I don’t know, it is possible that some of these situations contributed to what happened in Connecticut on Friday morning. But that is not the problem. Obviously we have far too many guns scattered around this country but even if we melted every one of them into a huge pile of metal, people would still kill other people. Conducting morning prayer meetings at the beginning of each school day would not eliminate evil from this world.
As long as we live in a fallen world, and we will until Jesus returns, evil will be an occasional companion. It might be encouraged by violent influences or enhanced by the availability of deadly weapons, but we will not be rid of evil in this world.
One of the things that is very interesting to me is the initial response of people when confronted with evil. My Facebook page was filled will comments about the school shooting and nearly every one of them contained the word “pray.” Churches, not only in Newtown Connecticut but around the country, were filled with people seeking solace and answers. When we don’t know anything else to do, at least we know to pray.
It seems to indicate that even though we do not understand why God allows evil in this world, we do know He is the only refuge. One thing we do know is that God understands how we feel. He stood by and watched His own Son die at the hands of an unjust ruler and a rebellious mob. He allowed it so that some day He could put an end to this evil world. He allowed His own Son to die for the sins of all the evil men of this world, including you and me, so that some day He can establish a world where the lion and lamb can cuddle up together.
In the meantime, life is hard and it often hurts. But as long as we look to God we will find the One who can get us through the pain. It might be that all we can do is pray – but it may be enough!