"Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." - Romans 12:21
While my family and I were away for a two-day Christmas get-away, the tragic events in Newtown, Connecticut took place, with twenty small children and six adults being senselessly killed at an elementary school. As many questions are asked by so many people, one of those that I have heard asked often is, "How could God allow such a thing to happen?" It's a common question at times like this, and the answer is, in some ways, unanswerable. But in view of this horrible and mind-numbing tragedy that strikes at the heart of each of us, a number of truths from Scripture, God's Word, are not only important to know and to believe, but are also the only place to find comfort at such a time as this.
The first is this: the heart of God is grieved beyond what even the parents of these children are grieved. Evil grieves the heart of God. Pain and suffering grieve the heart of God. As Jesus looked at the crowds that surrounded Him, He had compassion on them and often healed the sick and even raised a few who were dead. God is love, beyond what any of us can understand. He is kind and compassionate beyond what any of us can express. And God is faithful to those who call on Him through His Son Jesus Christ. He has revealed His love in sending His OWN Son into the world to bear His own just judgment against your sin and mine. Rest assured, God is grieved at the evil in the world, wherever it happens.
The second thing that is important for us to understand is that all evil, directly or indirectly (or both) is the result of mankind's rebellion against the God who created us. God is not the author or cause of evil. God created mankind good and in His own image, in righteousness and true holiness. Yet, we can all say with David as he wrote Psalm 51: "Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me" (Psalm 51:5). The Bible tells us that God overrules the full effect of sin through His Spirit, preventing people from being as bad as they could and would be without any restraint from His Spirit and from the laws of men and civilizations. What we see at times like this is what human nature, without the restraining influence of God's Spirit, can become. Throughout history there appear from time-to-time people without any moral restraint. Whether "mental illness," and/or spiritual death, or a combination of factors, evil people do evil things. There is no reason, no excuse, no rational answer - just evil.
A third thing we need to know, that follows from the first two, is that God is present during tragedy in ways that we don't understand. Even though we often live our lives as though God were far away, or even non-existent, at times like this the conversation inevitably turns to God. Suddenly people want to believe that there is a sovereign God who COULD have stopped such an event. Of course, God IS sovereign and He could have prevented such an event from happening ... as He could have prevented the earthquakes that have taken place this year, or the wars that have killed thousands, or the car accidents that have affected thousands more lives, or the cancer or heart attack ... ... ... God COULD prevent ALL of those things - otherwise He wouldn't be God. Isaiah writes that God's ways are above our ways and His thoughts are beyond our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9).
But we also need to know and acknowledge that this sovereign God IS the author of every good thing that happens in this world, even in those who do not yet know or acknowledge Him. The simple truth is, God is responsible for all of the good and right and beautiful and wonderful things you see and experience throughout life, while Satan and his demons and people are the cause of all the evil in this world. Why doesn't God DO something? God DID do something, and He IS doing something! God calls us to come to Him, to believe in Him, to confess our own sin, to turn from evil and to experience His forgiveness and love. That happens only when we see that God stepped into history and entered this world to become a man in the person of Jesus Christ, whose birthday we are about to celebrate, and gave Himself for all who would believe in Jesus. To believe means to trust, to have faith ... no matter what ........ to KNOW that God loves you, that He is with you and that He will never leave you. That is what Christmas is all about. It is in the celebration of Christ's birth, along with the knowledge of His sacrifice on the cross and His resurrection, that we find hope in the midst of tragedy. Evil will not win!
Finally, the ultimate reality of this unimaginable event in Connecticut, as with every similar attack of evil anywhere in the world, is that God will in some way draw those who seek Him to Himself. He will comfort those who need comfort, He will strengthen those who are weak, He will give hope to those who despair, He will revive the broken hearts and in thousands of ways show Himself faithful to each one who comes to Him through the One whose birth we now celebrate in the midst of such overwhelming sadness. For you see, Jesus is the only hope in the midst of the evil of this world. It was because of his faith in Jesus that the Apostle Paul wrote, "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." No other truth brings comfort, hope and peace today or any other day. As I share with my brothers and sisters at Lighthouse often, "Jesus is on the throne, and the angels are singing: 'Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty. Heaven and earth are full of His glory."
Today is not a day to question God, but rather, to draw near to Him, believing in what we cannot see and knowing that through faith in Jesus Christ we have the sure and certain hope that evil will someday come to an end. Jesus Christ will return and all evil will be destroyed. Even now, God is working in Newtown, Connecticut and all over the world through the Gospel of Jesus Christ to draw people out of the darkness of sin, into the light of His glory. The true Church has the cure for evil, and it is Jesus! I pray that in the days ahead, this week and in the new year, you will draw near to the God who calls you to come to Him through Jesus to find comfort, strength and hope, no matter what is going on in your life or in the world around you. There is no true hope or peace anywhere else. May the Lord bless you and keep you, now and always!