Are There Any Answers to Questions About Our Senseless Suffering?
The heartbreaking tragedy in Las Vegas has most of us scrambling to comprehend what we’re witnessing. No doubt, our collective minds have been seeking so many answers, but perhaps we’re all asking the same basic question: how can we explain these senseless tragedies and stop them from damaging more people?
A lot of us have accepted that the best solutions are not found in our government programs, our politics, our laws or our classrooms. So where can we turn?
I happen to believe, as a lifelong Christian, that the God who created us weeps intensely over the pain humans feel. It therefore seems natural that the answer to our question is rooted in the hope of a compassionate God who we Christians instinctively turn to in prayer.
So what does it mean when a Christian says they will #PrayForVegas? I have studied the Christian faith extensively. Perhaps my best contribution to this conversation about tragedy and suffering is to help explain the Christian worldview. I certainly do not expect a brief blog post to ever fix the heartache or soothe the unthinkable pain a grieving loved one experiences in tragedy. Yet it might help someone, even a little, in the fog of despair to consider what Christianity has to offer and how it specifically speaks to these situations.
My sense is that there are three pressing questions that surface during tragic losses. Whether your life has been touched by natural disasters, freak accidents, terrorism or common grief, the Christian faith worldview has some answers worth considering.
1. Why did this happen?
Christian Faith Answer: Evil. Wickedness. Darkness and death. That’s how it’s described in the Bible. God has created us for life and joy, but evil has temporarily disrupted our existence on earth.
When Christians #PrayForVegas, they should mean that they believe God can help the people He created turn to and rest in Him — a God who is not surprised by unthinkable evil and death, and a God who created us and warns us about evil. He explains that as long as we exist, evil will pervasively steal, kill and destroy the human race.
2. Why can’t we fix this so more people’s lives aren’t damaged?
Christian Faith Answer: Humans are naturally selfish and sick (the Biblical word for this is ‘depraved’). Beginning at infancy, the human condition involves pride, rebellion and selfishness. Has anyone ever given birth to a child who prioritizes someone else’s desires over their own? Does any toddler say, “yes, mom, as you wish” instinctively? In my experience, humans’ first and most natural governing response to authority is “NO!”
When Christians #PrayForVegas, they should mean that they believe God can help people humble themselves. God warns us about the human heart and describes the havoc it generates when it indulges itself fully. According to the worldview of the Christian faith, all of human conflict, abuse and violence is a result of the selfish desires at war within the human heart. Though most humans never sink so low that they kill, the sickness of any human heart is known to continue down a path of self-indulgence, self-righteousness and self-gratification — far from God and saturated in negative emotions and selfish intentions.
In the Gospels, Jesus demonstrates exclusive authority over sickness and suffering by healing bodies and mending broken hearts (such as the woman accused of adultery in John 8:4). And in His literal resurrection from the dead, Jesus alone has famously overcome the ultimate consequence of a human heart sick with sin: death and separation from God. The main message of the Christian faith is that Jesus transforms human hearts. To believe in and trust Jesus means to believe that sickness and death are not the only end for a human life.
3. Why doesn’t God (if He even exists) stop the tragedy?
Christian Faith Answer: He will. One day, God will make everything new again. Every human who lives also dies, but God will undo death one day. Whether it’s accidental, natural or tragic, we’re all going to die. I don’t believe there’s much debate about that. Since we can’t even save ourselves from the common cold virus, and we can expect our human death rate to remain at 100%, the Christian faith describes what God has planned to save us from: more tragedy.
When Christians #PrayForVegas, they should mean that they believe God can help people hope in His plan to prepare us for the next life — an everlasting one, just beyond this temporary one. According to the worldview of the Christian faith, God has planned to make all things new. We learn in the Bible that he plans to repair what’s broken, restore what’s been lost, and renew everything that’s been corrupted. While we wait for this with agonizing impatience, God is patient (2 Peter 3:8–9,15). He is patiently waiting for us to give up and give in on our stubborn self-reliance and prideful independence from him. If our own personal pain, suffering and despair don’t cause us to turn to our Creator, what would?
When I #PrayForVegas, I’m praying that all who suffer will turn to and trust the God who promises to one day end all tragedy and suffering. One of the tenets of the Christian faith is that all believers who endure suffering show themselves to be true believers, and that, in the end, true believers can expect that one day God’s kindness, tenderness and mercy will fully and finally be theirs forever. Our temporary suffering is replaced by permanent joy (James 5:11). Meanwhile, we wait, and we pray for healing.