The suspected serial bomber who terrorized Austin, Texas, died in a confrontation with police overnight.
According to the Austin American-Statesman, authorities identified a twenty-four-year-old man using security video from a FedEx store, store receipts, and cell phone technology. They traced his vehicle to a hotel and began following it.
As SWAT approached, the suspect detonated a bomb in his car.
Interim Austin Police Chief Brian Manley told reporters, “We believe this individual is responsible for all of the incidents in Austin.” However, he urged the community to remain vigilant for other possible explosives, adding that “we do not know where (the suspect) has been in the past 24 hours.”
In other news, two students were shot yesterday at Great Mills High School, sixty miles southeast of Washington, DC. A sixteen-year-old girl is in critical condition, while a fourteen-year-old boy is in stable condition.
The suspect, Austin Rollins, may have had a prior relationship with one of them. The seventeen-year-old died after exchanging gunfire with a school resource officer.
St. Mary’s County Sheriff Tim Cameron described his officers’ response to the shooting: “This is what we prepare for. And this is what we pray we never have to do. And on this day, we realized our worst nightmare.”
Once again, we “weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15). Once again, we must pray for victims of a school shooting while asking God what we can do to prevent such tragedy from taking more precious lives.
“I am the resurrection and the life”
The recent attacks on Austin did not make its residents any less certain of the future than the rest of us. Yesterday’s shooting in Maryland is another tragic reminder that tomorrow is promised to no one.
I happened to be reading John 11 when news of the Maryland shooting broke. The chapter begins with news that Jesus’ friend, Lazarus of Bethany, was ill (v. 1). John then reminds us: “It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill” (v. 2).
I wrote in my journal: “Even the most passionate worship does not exempt us from suffering and death.” Whether we are deeply in love with Jesus or we have vehemently rejected his word, we can still fall victim to random violence, natural disasters, and terrible diseases.
Jesus’ response to their crisis is informative: “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was” (vv. 5-6). We might use “but” rather than “so.” To us, and to Lazarus’s sisters, Jesus’ decision to tarry when he could have healed his friend makes no sense.
They expressed their confusion clearly: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died” (vv. 21, 32). We feel the same way whenever God does not answer our prayers in the way we want him to.
In this case, however, Jesus knew more than they knew he knew. He knew that Lazarus had died (v. 14), though no one told him. He knew that he would come to raise his friend from the dead, proving both Jesus’ divinity and his great compassion (v. 35).
He knew that he would be able to give Martha this immortal announcement: “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die” (vv. 25-26). He knew that he would redeem this tragedy for God’s great glory and their great good.
And he knew that he would invite their family to partner with him in liberating the dead. After Jesus called Lazarus from the grave, “The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him, and let him go'” (v. 44).
God did what only he could do, and they did what they could do.
“Start doing what he is blessing”
When we face a crisis, we do well to learn from John 11. We can know that God knows our name (v. 14). He knows our problem better than we do (Matthew 6:8). He has a plan to use it for his glory and our good. He has a strategy to use us in partnering with him in his divine purpose.
His plan becomes reality when we turn to him with our pain. When we tell him about our suffering (John 11:3) and ask him to do what we pray or whatever is best. When we wait for his providential purpose to be fulfilled and join him at work.
Rick Warren is right: “Stop asking God to bless what you’re doing and start doing what he is blessing.”
Dr. Gary Dyer is pastor of Austin Baptist Church and my dear friend. We were discussing the bombings yesterday and he made this important point: “We are praying for–and anticipating–an increased interest in the gospel this Easter” as a result of these attacks.
Let’s join them.