ALL THINGS? EVEN THIS?

by David Sisler

"Christians don't really know how to interpret pain. If you pinned them against the wall, in a dark, secret moment, many Christians would probably admit that pain was God's one mistake. He really should have worked a little harder and invented a better way of coping with the world's dangers" (Philip Yancey, The Gift Nobody Wants).

"What can effectively separate us from the love of Christ? We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose" (Paul the Apostle, Letter to the Romans).

"It appears to be a suicide mission" (Sheriff John Stone, Littleton, Colorado).

New Life Christian Center, where my kids are members, was having a guest speaker, so I went to support the special program. Before the worship time began my daughter, Jennifer, asked, "Did you hear about the shooting in the Denver school?"

There had been no news break-ins on the station we were listening to at work, and I was listening to a book-on-tape in the car, so Jen's report was the first I had heard. Maybe it comes from being married to a school teacher, but when I heard about the murders, I wept. My first words were, "Come back, Jesus! Come back now!"

The people who set off bombs and fired weapons are dead. So who do we blame? There are many possibilities, and many areas of our culture deserve scrutiny, but the use of scapegoats avoids personal responsibility. Philip Yancey, one of today's most insightful and challenging writers, says most Christians think pain is God's one big mistake. So are we going to hold the Lord God Almighty responsible for the deaths in Littleton? Is it your opinion that he should have intervened? It is easy to make a case against God, if we take the actions of Satan and the actions of man and treat them both as if they were the actions of God.

Who, with sound intelligence and coherent logic, would suggest that the God who said, "I came so my sheep might have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of" could remotely sanction the events of Littleton? This is Satan's world. God's word says so. That does not make God less God. It does mean that until Jesus returns in power and in majesty and in victory, hell rules this planet.

Paul's statements that all things work together for the good of those who love the Lord, and that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ, too easily become mantras that are chanted mindlessly and without any comprehension. Tell a grieving parent that the death of a precious son or daughter will work for good and the chances are very good that unless that man, or that woman, knows Jesus Christ with a deep, inside personal conviction, you will get a blank stare or a punch in the nose. You would deserve both.

You might even get the punch in the nose from a believer. Such confidence must work from the inside out, and at the moment of grief, it may not be understood. It may not even be believed.

If God is for us, who can be against us? Eyewitnesses in Littleton said one of the gunmen pointed his weapon and said, "You're black," and pulled the trigger, "You're a jock," and pulled the trigger, "I don't like you," and pulled the trigger. Obviously those young people had someone against them. We all have people who are against us. Thankfully, most of them do not have guns. But each of us can have a personal relationship with the God who says, "With my love inside of you, nothing, no one, can ever effectively, ultimately, be against you, defeat you, overcome you, ever. Even a murderous gunman."

The senseless death of innocent children is just that senseless. Without the confidence that God is irrevocably for us, such tragedy can destroy our hearts with bitterness. The good news is that any man, any woman, any young person, can walk boldly into God's love, begin an eternal life, and live in the certainty of God's loyalty.

Why did so many people die in Columbine High School? Beyond the fact that Satan rules temporarily, I do not know. How can these deaths ever be understood? I see no way to ever fathom the sorrow of the families who lost precious children. Can the deaths in Littleton, Colorado, or your own personal hurt or individual suffering separate you from the love of Christ so that you are completely on your own? Now here, I do have the answer. Unless God is a liar, they cannot.

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Published in the Augusta Chronicle 4/24/99

Copyright 1999 by David Sisler. All Rights Reserved.

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