For seven hours last Saturday night, Jason Brian Dalton drove from one target to the next across Kalamazoo County in southwest Michigan. His shooting rampage killed six and injured two others. In between the shootings, he apparently picked up passengers for Uber. According to CNN, “One question looms above all else: Why did the gunman do this?”
Here’s my question: Why do we care?
Of course I don’t mean that we should not care about the victims of this horrific tragedy. Jesus weeps for them, as should we. Or that we shouldn’t try to understand the shooter’s motives, since they are related directly to his prosecution.
But I’m focusing on a different question this morning: Why do we want to know why the gunman did what he did? Here’s my answer: Because senseless violence is the most frightening violence of all. If I don’t understand why it happened to you, I worry that it could happen to me.
Earthquakes in California are a different story where earthquakes strike than where they don’t. The tropical cyclone in Fiji is a different story for people who live on islands than for people who live inland. If what happened to you could happen to me, it matters more to me.
However, understanding a tragedy can be more a placebo than a solution.
Suppose the gunman’s rampage resulted from a psychological condition we might now identify and remedy. But shootings claim thirty-six American lives each day; preventing whatever motivated the Michigan rampage won’t stop all gun violence. As many Americans die in cars as from guns; preventing the latter won’t prevent the former.
Clearly we should seek to understand and stop tragedy however we can. But unless Jesus returns first, we will all die one day. When that day comes, why we die will not matter—but what happens when we die will matter forever.
The answer to life’s terrifying unpredictability is to focus on what is predictable. If Jesus is your Lord, when you die you can claim your Savior’s promise: “Everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die” (John 11:26). And until you die, you can claim his promise: “I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).
Peace in perilous times can be our most powerful witness. And if you rise today and sleep tonight in “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7), when your last day comes, as Spurgeon says, “sudden death were sudden glory.”
What if it were today?
Note: For more on today’s theme, please read my Global Crises and the Key to a Happy Soul.