(I originally wrote this as a personal journal entry on Monday, November 6, 2017, after the massacre at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. I decided that maybe others were trying to make sense of all the tragedies occurring so I decided to rewrite it as a blog post. I pray it brings hope to other heavy hearts as we await the return of our Savior. - Pastor Mike Gauch)
Sunday afternoon, as I was driving home after a delightful lunch with family, I was shaken by the news of another massacre. This time in a Texas church. I was also shocked how quickly I began numbing these painful emotions through various well-worn practices. I'm just so tired of senseless, dehumanizing violence on such an epic scale. As we in America get desensitized to mass murders, that seem to happen weekly, let us be clear that it never does to God. His heart breaks over the evil acts of men.
This statement in itself brings up the age-old question: Why does a good God not stop the evil? I personally wrestle with this question as individuals and groups abuse, enslave, ruin and destroy others. I must always go back to what is true to find a path through the evil to the place of hope.
Evil has been unleashed by Adam, our distant progenitor, therefore there is no escape. Evil cannot be caged until it leaves its destructive trail through history. Its path, set by God, has boundaries and an expiration date but this does not mean we can dodge evil’s effect.
If anyone had the moral right and righteous might to not experience evil it was the God-Man, Jesus. Fully God, fully man, he stepped into the polluted flow of wickedness taking on its full blast by undeservedly enduring the shameful cross and humiliating death as a rebel slave. Evil’s short-lived victory lasted 3 days - a Pyrrhic victory indeed for it won a battle but lost the greater war! Jesus defeated evil, devils and death through His resurrection which verified that His sacrificial death was accepted and complete. Evil would never win in the end.
My imagination is such that I cannot help but put myself in the place of those dear saints. In community, they came to meet Christ in worship through song and teaching. Suddenly they were pounced upon by unvarnished evil. Death and destruction, heartless and indiscriminate, has left a trail of tears and grief.
Those who died at the hands of a deranged, demon-controlled hater of God, did so as blessed martyrs of Christ. They therefore saw heaven open up where the glory of God encompassed Jesus, who greeted each with a loving embrace of the shared experience (Acts 7:55-60). For these faithful saints, young and old, a special crown of life was given to them by the Lord Himself (Rev. 2:10). They are alive, just not here, with the God of the living (Matt. 22:32). This is our hope, which we rest everything upon.
My heart breaks for those who experienced this trauma. My tearful prayers rise up for them. Evil-experienced has a way of lingering for years affecting both the consciousness of day and the dreams of night. I pray that they will be kind to themselves and grieve, hanging on to their hope as best they can.
Even though life will never be the same, I believe from both God’s word and experience that Jesus will heal these deep soul wounds over time. His promise still stands true, “Now may the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace in every circumstance” (2Th 3:16). I pray for courage and humility to seek help from wise, gifted and Spirit-filled aides whom God has raised up on His behalf.
Last, I pray for God’s unlimited and empowering grace to be received by this whole community. This is so needful for the body ministry of the “one anothers” to each other but also of displaying the gospel to those who now know they need this saving grace. This grace will also aid in forgiveness which Jesus displayed on the cross (Luke 23:34).
Hope comes as we long for the day when we experience this promised experience:
“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" (Rev 21:4).
As we yearn for this future day while “in the midst of a wicked and twisted generation,” we can know that there is a crown that awaits each of us. Jesus, the righteous judge, will award this crown of righteousness “to all who have [expectantly] loved his appearing” (2Ti 4:8). This is the path through the evil of our age where our hike always ends at our Blessed Hope, Jesus (Titus 2:13).