Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Processing Thoughts on Evil

There's a feeling of personal vulnerability that saturates us in the aftermath of criminal evil. We may not be personally involved. We may not even know the victims. But we are gripped and grieved by the impact of violence on others. As I watched the television coverage last night of the massacre at Virginia Tech, I was surprised to see snow falling in mid-April. It struck me as a peculiar but fitting remnant of winter wrapped around an otherwise chilling day.

The coming hours and days will see a laser-like focus on what could have been done to prevent what happened on the campus of Virginia Tech. As we desperately try to patch together answers to the question "why," the light of scrutiny will no doubt fall in many directions. Who pulled the trigger? Where did he come from? Who raised him? Were there clues and signs along the way that were missed or ignored? What about the crime scene? Who was responsible for keeping the campus safe? Were safety measures in place and working? Was there a crisis management plan? Was the plan followed? Could this senseless tragedy have been prevented? Or was it an inescapable random swipe of terror?

Events like this also cast a light above as people wonder where God was yesterday. How could a loving God allow this to happen? is the question that will be asked in one form or another by Christians and non-Christians alike. Those of us who love God will find ourselves, perhaps, in the position of feeling like we need to defend Him. Heaven forbid, we lose a soul in our midst who now has more reason to question God. When put on the spot, we'll try to scrape up theories and possible reasons. Optimists will focus on how good things can come from bad. Realists will point to the wrath of God. And both could be right.

But neither really knows. So if you ask me where I think God was, I can only tell you He is everywhere and never caught unaware. If you ask me why He didn't stop the gunman, I can only tell you that I do not know.

I'm reminded of the events that transpired in the latter verses of Job (42: 7-8) as I think about the appropriate response to how we engage others if God is brought into the discussion. Job's troubles by now are behind him. He has endured much suffering and God is now about to reward his faithfullness. But, first, God turns his attention to Job's "friends," who armchair quarterbacked their way through Job's persecution, dispensing bad advice and feigning righteous wisdom. God installs Job to a lofty position now in which his prayers can spare his fluttery friends the blunt force of His anger. Because, you see, Job maintained his integrity throughout. He approached God with honesty in his trials, decrying truthfully his miserable state yet clinging to his faith in God despite his lack of understanding. Job's friends, on the other hand, were too quick to try and reflect the mind of God and counseled from a crumbling spiritual perch.

What can we learn from Job today:

  • We can't speak for God's purpose in allowing specific acts of evil in the world today.
  • We must cling to our faith in His perfect judgment despite our lack of understanding.
  • We must endeavor to speak the truth, which might be: "I don't know."
  • We must know and trust that the prayers of the righteous are heard.
  • Take comfort in the truth that God is with us and He is holy.
  • Cling to the revelation that good triumphs over evil in the end.


David said...

An interesting post. Thank you for sharing.

della said...

I'm like you, Sarah. I am unable to understand the why.

I know that God is good -- all the time. I know that He is loving -- all the time. I know that He is sovereign -- all the time. And that is our greatest comfort, and our hope; to remember that God is always God.

Let us mourn with those who mourn.

Sarah Onderdonk said...

thank you, david. take good care.

God is always God... I love that, Della. thanks so much for sharing.