As if I needed a reminder that there is evil in the world, Sunday at a local church a man walked in during the service, went to the front of the church, pulled out a gun, and fatally shot the pastor 4 times. Fortunately, the man was subdued by 2 men in the congregation before he could hurt anyone else. At this point there doesn't appear to be a motive. The man did not attend this church and no one had ever seen him there before. There's no apparent history between him and the pastor; he just simply, and premeditatedly, walked in with the intent to kill him. I admit, I'm having a hard time getting my head around this one. Making it hit even closer to home is the fact that I have family that attend this church. Fortunately, they were not there when it happened, but I'm sure they are devastated. I know I would be.
I fully believe that we are all born sinful and with the propensity to commit evil, all you have to do is watch the news on a regular basis to confirm this. But I also believe in the sovereignty of God, which is why I struggle with what appear to be random acts of violence like this one. I know God is in control and has a purpose for everything, but I'm struggling to find any purpose in this. Oh, I could write all kinds of theological arguments to explain it, and I do believe those arguments are true, but it doesn't really provide much comfort to those that are hurting and mourning the loss of their pastor and to those of us who watch the world continue to deteriorate.
It's interesting that the sermon my pastor preached on Sunday, while this was happening only about 25 miles away, was about how all of us go through times of being in the wilderness of life and how God is always there with us in those times. The sermon was based on the passage in the Gospel of Mark where Jesus is baptized and immediately is taken into the desert for 40 days where He was tempted by Satan. As He struggled there in the wilderness, the scripture says He was comforted by angels. If there was ever a wilderness, the congregation of this church and the pastor's family are in the middle of maybe the darkest they will ever experience. What comforts me the most in these times is not the theological arguments, but remembering that God is always with us just as He was with Christ in the desert. God does not promise we will not go through suffering, in fact He clearly states that we will, however, He does promise that He will always be with us when we do. God sent His only son to earth to suffer and die for our sins so He is fully able to understand our grief. In fact, I believe His heart is broken every time He sees the evil mankind commits against our fellow man.
Could God have prevented this terrible tragedy and all the other terrible tragedies that happen every day around the world? I believe He could have, but for reasons beyond our understanding, He chose not to. In the end any explanation of why will be insufficient. The fact is evil exists and in the present time has been allowed to run its course. We are guaranteed to see it rear its ugly head again. However, we are not without hope. God has promised not only to comfort us now, but that someday Christ will return and restore and redeem all things to the way they were intended to be from the beginning. No more violence, pain, and suffering.
I'm sure the people of this congregation will go through all the emotions of anger, fear, and grief in the coming days, months, and years. All of which are appropriate. Please pray for each of them and the members of the family as they work through these emotions. Pray that God would comfort each of them and that He would use this in some way even if we never fully understand. Lord, please come back soon and rescue us from ourselves.