President Trump will visit El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, later today as political conflict over last weekend’s shootings continues. Politicians and the media are also debating the role of gun control in preventing such tragedies.
In a crisis, a secularized culture looks to the resources it has. Political leadership is obviously vital to our well-being, as is effective legislation.
Few, however, are asking about God’s role in the massacres and their aftermath. Scripture proclaims that “God is the King of all the earth” (Psalm 47:7) and that he “reigns over the nations” (v. 8).
So let’s ask: Where was God in El Paso and Dayton? What is he doing in the aftermath of these horrible tragedies?
Where were God’s angels?
God gives us free will so we can choose to love him and each other (Matthew 22:37–39). When humans misuse our freedom, the fault is not the Lord’s but ours: “God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire” (James 1:13–14).
If God always prevented the consequences of sin, we would not be free. If he had intervened in El Paso or Dayton, or if he protects you and me from the results of our next sins, human freedom would not be real.
Here’s the dilemma: there are times when it seems this is just what he does. For example, King Herod misused his freedom when he imprisoned Peter and plotted his execution. But God sent his angel to free the apostle from his Roman jail (Acts 12:1–11).
It’s natural to ask: Where were his angels in El Paso and Dayton? Why pray for God to protect our children and grandchildren if he allows mass murderers to kill other children and grandchildren?
After Job lost his children, his possessions, and his health, he asked, “Why did I not die at birth, come out from the womb and expire?” (Job 3:11). The psalmist asked God, “Why have you forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?” (Psalm 42:9). Even Jesus cried from the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46, quoting Psalm 22:1).
Eleven-year-old boy makes a remarkable difference
Here’s what I do know: “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18). There is no burden we cannot share with him: “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you” (1 Peter 5:7 NLT).
I also know that evil can be used for good. Consider some of the remarkable stories coming out of last weekend’s tragedies.
An eleven-year-old boy in El Paso has created the #ElPasoChallenge. Ruben Martinez wants to “challenge everyone to do 22 acts of good deeds in honor of the 22 people who were killed.” His “challenge” has gone viral, reaching people as far away as Germany.
We learned about Glendon Oakley, an Army serviceman who rescued multiple children during the El Paso massacre. He explained later: “That is what the military has taught me to do, and why I am thankful to be in the military.”
And we learned stories of incredible courage, such as the grandfather in El Paso who died shielding his wife and granddaughter from the gunman and the mother who was killed protecting her two-month-old son.
Two ways to partner with our Father
I know another fact about God: he wants us to work with him. There is a divine-human partnership across Scripture and human history. Noah builds the ark, and God sends the Flood; Moses raises his arms, and God parts the Red Sea; Joshua and the people step into the torrential Jordan River, and God stops the flood.
How can we join God at work in these tragic days?
One: We can be proactive in responding to the crises we see in the people we know.
A grandmother in Lubbock recently took her grandson to a hospital after he told her about his plan to “shoot up” a local hotel and then commit suicide by cop. Officers then searched his hotel room, where they found an AK-47 rifle, seventeen loaded magazines, and multiple knives.
Pray for the discernment to know when you need to intervene and for the courage and compassion to respond. As the hands and feet of Jesus, we continue his earthly ministry through ours (1 Corinthians 12:27).
Two: We can use our gifts and influence to turn others to Christ.
Shortly after the El Paso and Dayton shootings, Max Lucado wrote an op-ed for Fox News that asks, “How are we to respond to this dark season of bloodshed?” After telling the story of Jesus walking on the stormy Sea of Galilee to his disciples, Lucado notes that “the moment they invited Christ into their boat was the moment they reached their destination” (John 6:21).
He then suggests: “Let’s follow the example of the disciples. Welcome Jesus into the midst of this turbulent time.”
How will you help someone you know invite Jesus into their storm today?
NOTE: As a follow-up to my article yesterday on the heretical and horrific ideology of white nationalism, I urge you to read ethicist Russell Moore’s outstanding essay, “White Nationalist Terrorism and the Gospel.”