A verse I have posted in my office is one I’ve pondered a lot over the years. It’s from Paul’s letter to the Romans, chapter 8, verse 31: “What then shall we say in response to this? If God is for us who can be against us?” As I sit down to write this message, it is the day after three precious nine-year olds, a teacher, a custodian and the principal at a local Christian school were murdered in my town.
How to make sense of this tragedy? How do we console the families, friends and co-workers of these loved ones? This is a Christian school attached to a church. The pain is multiplied not only among the church members but citizens of the neighborhood and the city of Nashville not to mention the nation and the world. It is an agony – one more horrific senseless school shooting — killing the most vulnerable among us.
Of course, there was immediately talk of better gun control and better mental health measures. In both these issues, the unspoken question perhaps is “Who is responsible?” Probably the next unspoken question is, “Where was God when that murderous woman drove up the driveway to the school, shot out the door, and began her assault?”
People have been gathering from Nashville and other cities and even states to pray and to remember the dead. My friends began texting each other to lament — so many tragedies like this one in our country — what can be done, we ask. Who is to blame?
In the church year, this is the season of Lent – a time to rembember our Savior’s grief leading up his crucifixation. We read about the fact that He knew what awaited him. He even prayed, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will but as you will.”
Then we walk with Him through the valley of the shadow of death. Of course, we will all die but we are never ready for children to die nor for anyone to be murdered. It is unthinkable, really, yet it happened to Christ and it happens now sometimes violently and way too soon.
One of my pen pals in prison wrote that a person supposedly trying to help him prove his innocence told him, “You will die in prison.”
Really? What is the point of such a hopeless comment from one who has claimed to help the man?I wrote back to ignore that comment and then I did my best to encourage him. I invited him to begin to seriously grow his soul and I sent for a study guide of PRACTICING THE PRESENCE OF JESUS from words by Brother Lawrence of centuries ago.
If he’s willing to concentrate on the words of a man who spent his last years working in a kitchen, indeed “practicing the presence of Jesus,” maybe he’d be willing to try it right there in prison.
But back to that question, “What good is Easter?” Back to Romans 6, Paul said, “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all — how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” Right away you might be asking, “But what all things?”
Well, I have not lost a child, but I have endured bankruptcy, divorce, the loss of a job and ministry, and my health — hard times for sure. But in all these things, I was not alone and I knew it, even when I made some bad decisions. Amazingly, because He is omipresent [always with us], the answer to that question, “Where was God?” is He was there. He was right there, griving.
I think the “all things” that God has for us is whatever we need in the moment. It’s Himself, actually. So what good is Easter? Well, it is either a false promise and worth nothing or the resurrection of Jesus is true. He lives in me and He lives in you. And nothing will ever be the same again.