On Friday, November 13, 2015, there was mass hysteria in Paris as gunmen and suicide bombers attacked people all over the city. The news was devastating, and my heart broke for the families of those who were killed. Turning to my husband, I burst into tears on his shoulder and sobbed. The world all around seemed to be collapsing. Heart bursting and hope scattered, the words clobbered one after another into the anxious silence. I said, “after all of the hurricanes, all of the earthquakes, tornados, heat waves and cold fronts, the earth-shattering and life taking natural disasters… after all of these, how can people kill more people?” Eric’s shoulders provided a place to lean and his ear a place to listen until the day that he died, exactly three months after we had that conversation.
Death is terrible and sad on its own. Death rips and tears at hearts and it breaks people. It shatters worlds and families. When someone you love dies, it is never the right time, even in the case of people who’ve lived many years, because death is not ok. It’s not the way God originally intended it. So why do we also kill each other? How can people be so cruel? The murders in Las Vegas, the worldwide genocides that don’t make it into the news, the bombs, the wars, the religious killings, the procedures that go by medical names so that they might seem humane… these things all threaten the significance of every life. People are dying by the hands of other humans.
According to scripture, this horror is because of sin; because humans are evil to the core, able to love only because of the sacrifice made by Jesus. Without Jesus, everything is broken. Our hope has to be in the same God who will make things right again when He returns, having overcome the world (John 16:33). I believe this, and my hope is secure, but even so, the weight of this world can be overwhelming. My heart threatens to burst into a million pieces to match the tears that drain my face of color and paint. Utterly pale and feeling helpless, I fall to my knees and I still want to question all of this death and suffering.
How can our God, who is both completely sovereign and also completely powerful, allow evil that He hates?
On Sunday, November 15, Eric got the chance to share a message to speak with our church in Beloit, Wisconsin, about the terror in Paris.
“Somehow in his infinite plan that we will never understand, it glorifies him more fully for these things to happen. God is more glorified through these things than he would be otherwise, even though it makes no sense. Deuteronomy 29:29 says, ‘The secret things belong to the Lord.’ And this definitely falls under that. That is definitely a secret thing. We will never know fully, probably, and definitely not this side of eternity how all of this glorifies God to do those things. And yet, somehow it does, and it glorifies God when we react in suffering with thanksgiving and with an attitude that is focused on him. It Glorifies God when our faith is tested and we persevere through it as James 1 says. When we trust and cling to God so intensely that when things like what happened in Paris happen, our happiness might be shot down but our joy is still there because our joy is still found in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the peace that we get from knowing and trusting Him.” (Full message here)
I may not ever know the “whys” of the horror that happens on this side of eternity. I may never understand God’s specific purposes for allowing evil here. I do know, and cling even harder, to the promises He made to His people. Trouble will come, but He will never leave or forsake his children (Hebrews 13:5-6). One day He will “wipe away every tear from their eyes and death shall be no more. Neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4). Not only did God promise these things, but He has been and will continue to be faithful to keep them.
1 Hear my cry, O God,
listen to my prayer;
2 from the end of the earth I call to you
when my heart is faint.
Lead me to the rock
that is higher than I,
3 for you have been my refuge,
a strong tower against the enemy.
Psalm 61:1-3 (ESV)
Featured Image by Samuel Schneider