Unimaginable shock, grief, pain, and the sudden, horrific loss of innocent victims:
“On Saturday, Feb. 20, when a gunman unleashed hell with the trigger of his 9 mm handgun in the deadliest shooting spree the community has ever experienced. What once seemed unfathomable here is now horrible reality. Six people are dead, struck down in a span of 16 minutes. Another was seriously wounded and a 14-year-old girl is fighting for her life. Four of the dead were women, friends who were headed home after dinner and show. Two were a father and son who had stopped at a car dealership. Police have said the attacks were random. In some instances, they allege he ambushed his victims before killing them in cold blood;” From the Kalamazoo Gazette.
Doubt and fear begin to take hold and then our faith begins to waiver, if we choose to let it.
That is just some of the aftermath of when evil strikes so close to us as it did for those of us who love and call Kalamazoo, Michigan our home a week ago. It will take a long time to heal from this. It will take a long time to heal from this for those who have been directly affected. But from such senseless madness, anger and violence, has emerged an outpouring of love, prayers, help and hope from within this community and around the world for the victims and to those who have been directly impacted by these tragedies.
Beauty, truth and goodness will continue to arise from the ashes.
I hope this may provide you with some encouragement and hope today.
The four murders at the Cracker Barrel took place just over a mile from my own family’s home, and I learned this past Friday that one of those victims was a student at my Alma Mater Hillsdale College in the late 50’s and early 60’s.
What would possess someone to do this? Details of the bizarre actions of a rampaging gunman are not likely to surface until the accused attacker is brought to trial, a law enforcement leader said. And that is also likely to be when the question “Why?” is answered, said Kalamazoo County Sheriff Rick Fuller. But the answer is unlikely to be a satisfying, he said. “He can come out and say, ‘It was this or it was that,'” Fuller said of why eight people were shot last Saturday night in Kalamazoo, “but nobody’s going to accept it and why should they believe him?”
Senseless violence and motives. But did you know that the Bible say a lot about our own motives?
Then we begin to ask: Why God why?
What should we do when life doesn’t make sense?
I recommend a book written by Karen Jensen that she wrote after her own husband’s death. In it she asks: Has tragedy shaken the foundation of your life? Have you been blindsided by an event you never expected to face? What should we do when we’re going through the dark places in life?
…when we’ve lost everything?
…when we’re in pain?
…when we’re wondering why?
She encourages people to ask God questions, be honest with Him. The important thing, she says, is what you do after you’ve asked those questions. Trust in God and confidence in His plan for you. Jensen ends each chapter with Scriptures and affirmations.
Let’s also remember that prayer is care, and also provides protection. Why does God want us to pray for others? Because intercessory prayer reflects God’s own character of outgoing love and mercy. God wants us to think like He does, and praying for others helps us to think beyond ourselves and to grow in compassion for others.
I pray and have taught my children to pray the Lord’s prayer each and every morning. Jesus told us to pray like this: Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive others who trespass against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory are yours, now and forever. Amen
“But deliver us from evil” is the last of the seven petitions in the Lord’s prayer (the first three address God, the second four are prayers related to our needs and concerns.) The final request is for protection by our Father in heaven.
Also never forget that God cares.
I believe that God cares more than we care. In fact, God cares more than we can possibly imagine. For God is all love, and so God weeps when we weep and mourns when we mourn. I can imagine God weeping as much as a father or mother of one of the victims. Can anyone doubt this after reading the Gospel stories that describe what happens when Jesus encounters suffering? When he encounters those who are suffering in any way, his heart is “moved with pity.” The original Greek is much stronger: Jesus feels it in his guts. Jesus is moved with compassion when he sees the poor, the sick, the outcast. He wept when his friend Lazarus died.
In times of great trial, we are to depend on the Lord when evil is at our door.
When we pray, “Deliver us from evil,” we are acknowledging the fact that there is not only evil in the world, but a supremely evil one. We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one. By praying this portion of the prayer, we are admitting that life is a struggle and that we are in spiritual warfare, a battle, and are combating an enemy who seeks to oppress us and keep us from serving the Lord and sharing Him with others. By praying this prayer, we are confessing that though we are in the world, we are not of it. That though the Lord is Sovereign in the world, we live and move and have our being, behind enemy lines.
Evil exists, but Jesus, our Lord and Savior promises: The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10:10
When we pray “Deliver us from the evil one”, we are conceding four essential facts about our enemy: We are admitting that he is exists, he is in conflict with us as God’s children, God is our deliverer from him and the Lord wants us to take our stand against him. The Bible gives many examples of people praying for others, and we can learn a lot by studying and mediating on these examples.
Finally, my wife Shannon and I took our son last night (my daughter was at a friend’s house) to have dinner at one of the places where evil struck a week ago. First, in a way to pay honor to some of the victims by visiting the temporary memorial that was made (as seen in the photo for this post), but to also support this business during what must be such a difficult time for those who work there.
The kids expressed some surprise and concern about us going there, but I reminded them that we can’t live or move forward if we choose to let fear to rule our lives.
God never meant it to be this way. For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. 2 Timothy 1:7
We also reminded them that He can make something meant for evil and turn it into good. And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. Romans 8:28
Jesus reminds us to take heart.
Fear not and trust God and that He is good, and good all of the time. You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.
There is no sorrow that Heaven can’t heal. God’s word promises us that evil doesn’t win in the end and that no tears are never wasted.