April 18, 2007
Who among us is not grieving with the families of those who died at Virginia Tech this week? We mourn with them and pray for the families of the victims and for the victims who survived.
Investigators are still seeking answers as to why this terrible crime was committed. And many of those watching events unfold are likely asking this very question on a spiritual level. That is, why did God allow this slaughter to happen? If He had the power to stop it, why didn’t He?
It is a question that has caused many to doubt God’s existence—or His goodness, or His power. It did with a friend of mine, a journalist named Lee Strobel.
Lee was an atheist when he decided to examine the historical evidence regarding the existence of God. His journey led to a vibrant faith in Christ. But Lee still struggled with the questions that seemed to have no logical answer—such as why a loving God would allow someone to murder thirty-two people at a Virginia university.
Lee interviewed Christian philosopher Peter Kreeft, who gave Strobel the traditional teaching regarding why evil is abroad in the world: Humans cannot enjoy both free will and a world free from sin. “Once God chose to create human beings with free will,” Kreeft said, “it was up to them . . . as to whether there was sin or not.”
True, but Kreeft then offered a second explanation for the reality of evil. He suggested that God might tolerate certain short-range evils in order to achieve a long-range good that humans cannot foresee.
Imagine, he said, a bear in a trap and a hunter who wants to liberate him. The hunter cannot win the bear’s confidence, so he has no choice but to shoot the bear full of tranquilizers. The terrified bear thinks the hunter is trying to kill him. He does not understand that the hunter is acting out of compassion.
“I believe,” Kreeft said, “God does the same thing to us sometimes, and we can’t comprehend why He does it any more than the bear can understand the motivations of the hunter. We simply have to trust God.”
Finally, Kreeft concluded, people do not get away with evil acts, even though they may seem to. God will one day settle the accounts. Evildoers will be punished for the suffering they have caused; the righteous will be rewarded.
But let’s look at the alternative explanation: the question of why God would allow such suffering—does that mean that God does not exist? If He doesn’t exist, there is still suffering, but there is no chance for redemption.
And we must remember today that God weeps with those who weep. God comforts those who mourn through His Holy Spirit, whom Jesus calls “the Comforter.” We pray that this Comforter would bring peace and reassurance and the knowledge that God loves them to those who are suffering the sudden loss of loved ones this week.
Events like this, as with September 11, are sobering. Life is short and fragile. So as we mourn for the Virginia Tech families, let’s remember how suddenly our own souls may be required of us. Are we prepared, today, to face our God?
Ultimately, of course, death does not have the final word. On the cross, Christ triumphed over death; He will give eternal life to all who have faith in Him. In the end, as it is written in Revelation, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
Copyright © 2007 Prison Fellowship. Used with Permission
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