Friday, July 20, 2012

A Dark Night

"Evil is conquered as evil because God turns it back upon itself. He makes the supreme crime, the murder of the only righteous person, the very operation that abolishes sin. The maneuver is utterly unprecedented. No more complete victory could be imagined. God responds in the indirect way that is perfectly suited to the ambiguity of evil. He entraps the deceiver in his own wiles. Evil, like a judoist, takes advantage of the power of good, which it perverts; the Lord, like a supreme champion, replies by using the very grip of the opponent." ~ Henri Blocher

While my wife and I were watching The Dark Knight Rises, a dark night was occurring a few time zones away. People who were attending another showing of the very movie we were presently watching were attacked by a man, for no apparent reason. According to news, a man burst into the crowded theater wearing a gas mask and carrying an arsenal. He shot what is believed to be tear gas into the crowd, and then he opened fire with a shotgun, a rifle, and two handguns. At least 12 people are dead, and dozens are critically injured.

As with other tragedies that have rocked our recent history, the big question is, "Where was God last night?" Well, He was on His throne as King of the universe, where He has always been since before there was time. He never left it during the showing of The Dark Knight Rises in Denver, on 9/11, at the Oklahoma City bombing, at Virginia Tech, during WWI, during WWII, or when two of my closest friends died a few months before 9/11. He was not somewhere else in the world and somehow missed it. He was not surprised by it. He has always been and will always be in control of all things. We cannot say "He was not in control" of that event or "did not ordain it" and yet also hold to promises like Ro. 8:28. He cannot work all things together for good unless He controls those bad things that He works together, along with the good things, to accomplish good for His people. Why did He ordain the Denver shootings? I have no idea. I could give a few possible reasons like bringing together a nation or opportunities for the gospel, but anything that I could come up with would surely not be close to a complete account of God's plans and would cheapen the lives lost in that tragedy. The last thing we want to do in these situations is give simplistic answers that cheapen the deaths of valuable human beings or sacrifice God's sovereignty because we do not understand. We must leave it up to Him and acknowledge that sometimes when the darkness surrounds us we cannot understand why. Yet, we cannot doubt in the dark what we have known to be true about God in the light, and when we "can't trace God's hand trust His heart." He is sovereign over all things, and He promises to work all things together for the good of those who are His. If you deny the first you cannot trust in the second. If you deny the first you cannot have the hope of the second.

God's ultimate proof of His control and His ultimate use of evil to accomplish good come together at the cross, which is why I began with Blocher's quote. He is, of course, saying nothing new. Peter said it in his sermon at Pentecost: "Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves know—this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men." (Emphasis added.) God planned the ultimate crime and used the actions of evil men for the ultimate gift of salvation, for His glory and our good. Indeed, "no more complete victory could be imagined," and it shows that even in times of great tragedy like this, we can trust God's heart.

In all this, we cannot forget that we must grieve with those who grieve. The gospel is not a salve that will make the pain go away. The truth of the gospel is foundational in all things, especially death, but many people who have not experienced such grief try to use it as a magic wand to make those who are grieving instantly "feel better." They apply it with the hopes of making the grief go away. Yet, they do not understand that the gospel is not meant to keep us from mourning. It is meant to help us mourn as those who have its hope, to mourn not as the lost but with hope (1 Th. 4:13). Those who grieve must be allowed to grieve and struggle with God during these hard times. We cannot give "pat answers," we cannot sacrifice God's sovereignty, and we cannot trivialize the deaths of fellow human beings. We must grieve with those who grieve but not "as others do who have no hope" (1 Th. 4:13). We must pray the churches in the Denver area who will be called upon for urgent ministry. We must pray for our nation and communities. And, we must point to the cross as the ultimate proof of God's sovereignty over evil, His good use of it, and His heart for His people. What better answer can we give?

They do not give better answers, per se, but for similar answers from better men, I recommend reading one of Piper's articles that he wrote shortly after 9/11: Why I Do Not Say, "God Did Not Cause the Calamity, but He Can Use It for Good", and I also recommend listening to Steve Brown's broadcast that he aired on 9/12/2001: Tragedy, Sovereignty, and Hope.

By His Grace,

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