What will protect us from the next Omar Mateen?

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What will protect us from the next Omar Mateen?

June 15, 2016 -

Last Monday morning I drove to the building where our ministry offices are located and rode the elevator to our floor. All the while, I thought about how easy it would be for another Omar Mateen to attack our building. After Orlando, many are thinking the same as they enter movie theaters, shopping malls, bars—anywhere a crowd is present but armed security is not.

The New York Times tells us that we can expect increased security at public events as a result of the Orlando massacre. Bomb-sniffing dogs, metal detectors, and searches will become more common. But experts question whether such measures really work. And how would we enforce them everywhere they’re needed? Would they simply drive terrorists from a guarded venue to a less secure one?

We can defer the question. Since I never go to gay nightclubs, I can feel safer than those who do. But Christianity Today‘s Mark Galli is right: mass murderers can attack anywhere, any time. Nearly a year ago, nine people were murdered at a prayer meeting in a Charleston, South Carolina, church. On December 9, 2007, two people were killed at a ministry training center in Arvada, Colorado, and another two at a church in Colorado Springs.

I’ve been to prayer meetings, ministry centers, and churches. I’m guessing you have as well.

We can pray for protection, as people often do when they confront danger. The Washington Post has a wonderful story about a chaplain at Reagan National Airport who prays with those who worry before their flights. But the chaplain recently lost his ten-year-old son to brain cancer. I’m sure he prayed for his son to live.

I have prayed every day since our sons were born that God would protect them. Nonetheless, one of them developed cancer. He’s doing well today. But I still struggle with the fact that God didn’t prevent the cancer he used medical science to heal. If our son had died, I hope I would continue to trust God as the airport chaplain does.

“Though he slay me, I will hope in him,” Job famously testified (Job 13:15). But note the next line, one not quoted as often: “Yet I will argue my ways to his face.” David was “a man after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22), but he prayed, “How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever?” (Psalm 13:1).

Here’s how I think we should face these frightening days in faith.

First, keep praying. Pray for God’s protection for yourself and anyone in danger. Pray for God to alert authorities so they can catch terrorists before they strike. Pray for those who know about terrorist plans to expose them. Pray for security officials to be effective. Pray for wisdom to avoid danger. Pray for God to be “a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).

Second, keep trusting. Faith is most needed when it is most challenged. The greater the pain, the more we need the physician.

Third, keep asking. The harder the question, the more we need to ask it. “‘Come now, let us reason together,’ says the LORD” (Isaiah 1:18). “Reason together” in the Hebrew is “argue it out.”

My father would have been ninety-two years old this week. He died when I was a senior in college. The night he passed away, I went into the back yard and shook my fist at God. But he didn’t shake his fist at me.

Note: for more on this difficult subject, please see my Why Does a Good God Allow an Evil World?

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