After the news of the church shooting in Texas last November, a friend asked, “A shooting in church? 27 killed? Women and children? It’s God’s house. Where was he?” How do you answer a question like this? I didn’t know what to say.
James F. Pope
When a tragic event like that takes place, people can easily question God’s power and love. Others do more than question God; they blame him. Their words can make it seem like God is even more at fault than the perpetrator. You can respond to your friend’s questions by pointing to God’s power, wisdom, and love.
Could God have prevented that church shooting from taking place? Certainly. God can do anything. When Sarah laughed at the Lord’s promise that she would become a mother in her old age, the Lord said, “Is anything too hard for the LORD?” (Genesis 18:14). Years later, the prophet Jeremiah was on the receiving end of a similar question. “Then the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah: ‘I am the LORD, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?’ ” (Jeremiah 32:26,27). The biblical account of creation reveals God’s unlimited power. With powerful words, God called all things into existence. By his powerful word, the Lord sustains all things (Hebrews 1:3).
God could have prevented that shooting from taking place. Going back in time, God could have prevented the fall of Adam and Eve—the event to which all sins find their origin. If we back up to eternity, God could have prevented the fall of Satan and the other evil angels. God did not prevent those twin falls from taking place. God does not explain why he allowed those events to take place—nor does he have to.
Could God have prevented that massacre from taking place? Certainly. But when God allows tragedies and disasters to occur, we need to bow in awe of God’s wisdom. God knows what he is doing, and in the Bible God reminds us how his wisdom far surpasses ours. He assures us: “ ‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the LORD. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts’ ” (Isaiah 55:8,9).
The apostle Paul leads us in a doxology of God’s wisdom in the book of Romans: “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! ‘Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?’ ” (Romans 11:33,34). You and I cannot pretend to know or understand completely God’s ways. What we are happy to know in faith is the love of God.
Years ago, I read about a man whose son died fighting in the Vietnam War. This man was angry at God and asked a pastor, “Where was God when my son died?” Among other responses, the pastor said, “The same place he was when his own Son died.” In other words, the death of a loved one does not mean that God has withdrawn his love. The sacrificial death of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, displays a love that is unparalleled in human history (1 John 4:9,10).
While these thoughts may not answer every question of your friend, perhaps they can address some.
Contributing editor James Pope, professor at Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minnesota, is a member at St. John, New Ulm.
Do you have a manuscript, idea, or story from your own life you’d like to share for use in Forward in Christ or on wels.net? Use our online form to share it to our editorial office for consideration.
Get inspirational stories, spiritual help, and synod news from Forward in Christ every month. Print and digital subscriptions are available from Northwestern Publishing House.
Author: James F. Pope
Volume 105, Number 02
Issue: February 2018
Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us